When the Church Family Fights
Families do everything together. They worship, they play, they laugh, they love, they live together. All of life is done together when you're a family, or at least that's how its intended to be. When you go through life together, another things you do as a family is fight.
As the church we are the bride of Christ. We are Jesus' body, we collectively make it up and are individually members of it. In Christ we are a family. Similar to your physical family, we are meant to do life together too. As we do life together, we sometimes fight too.
I wish brothers and sisters didn't fight, but we do. It's reality. One of our worst traits as humans is we don't always get along. We know this from our real life experience. The more time we spend with anyone who isn't ourself, the more likely it is we get into arguments, disputes, and problems.
When I say we fight, I do not mean we come to blows (I pray God's people wouldn't fight period, but especially never be physical toward each other; although I'm sure somebody has before).
When I say we fight, I mean that sometimes we have disagreements, spats, conflicts, etc.
- Sometimes we annoy each other.
- Sometimes we really get under each others skin.
- Sometimes we can't seem to see eye to eye on certain things.
- Sometimes we leave people feeling overlooked, unheard, or unseen.
- Sometimes we say mean things (with good or bad intentions).
- Sometimes we make assumptions that hurt others.
- Sometimes we hurt each others feelings.
- Sometimes we are selfish.
- Sometimes we don't follow through with our words.
- Sometimes we don't treat others the way we want to be treated.
None of this is excused, but it's the truth. Because sometimes we sin and sin against each other.
Church, if the world is going to know us by our love for another, we will show them not only by how we treat them but by how we treat each other. We have to love another. One way they will know we are christians by our love, is by how we handle situations where we fight.
Church, if we are supposed to spend eternity together, don't you think we should get along now?
When Paul wrote to the Philippian church, a people he loved and had a great relationship with, he mentioned a pair of sisters who were fighting.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
- Philippians 4:2-3
Paul mentioned two women who apparently aren't getting along. He tells them to agree in the Lord, be of the same mind, or to live in harmony depending upon your translation. The word he uses has its root on the way you think. It is the same word for attitude. "Ladies, have the same attitude. Live in harmony. Get your minds back on the same page. Lead your minds to think the same way."
We have no idea why they weren't getting along. He doesn't blame one or the other. He doesn't mention a problem with one of their opinions or teachings, so it doesn't seem to be a false belief or teaching. It's very possible this is some different of opinion or personality clash (which is typically what christians fight and divide on most today).
Is their fight a big deal? Absolutely!
Notice the words he uses; I entreat or urge you! These are petition verbs. This is like when your parents use your entire name to call you. These are the only two petition verbs in the letter and its used here. It can be a big deal for many reasons.
This issue between them can not only affect their unity, but also the unity of the church. When we have issues with people, we unfortunately tend to pull other people onto our sides. That's a recipe for disaster in God's family. We all can't be one when we're choosing sides. It's a big deal because this isn't what the body of Christ was made for. God loved us that He sacrificed to make us this family. We are meant to be family, not foes.
While Paul addresses this fight in the family, he doesn't appear to say much about it. But when we read all of this letter with this issue in mind, I believe he speaks to it quite a bit.
What did Paul say to these Christians when they were fighting and what is Paul saying to us when we do the same?
Have Jesus' Attitude of Humility (2:1-8)
This section appears to be the heart of the letter and it greatly applies to these ladies situation.
The same word Paul used for these ladies to "live in harmony" or "have the same mind" he uses four times in verses 2-5. He's talking to them!
- Have the same mind! (And love - 2:2)
- Be united in spirit and mind (2:2)
- In humility count others more significant than yourself (2:3)
- Have this mind (or attitude - 2:5)
Paul's plea is for them to humble themselves. You need to lower your view. Stop thinking you deserve it all, everything should go your way, that you are most important, humble yourselves. That's your pride talking!
When we fight, we typically are looking out for ourselves first and only. In verse 4 he says look to the interest of others! Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Most of our conflicts are created, continued, and never cease because of conceit or selfishness.
We were only thinking about us, we were too high and mighty to resolve it when it happened, and we are too proud to go handle it correctly. That is not the attitude of Jesus. Paul reminds us of His example to show us what humility looks like.
If anybody has the right to be conceited, it's Jesus. Yet He willingly lowered himself in every way for eternity for a people who didn't deserve it. There's no selfish ambition or conceit in Jesus.
Most, if not all of our fights would not exist if we thought about the attitude of Christ who went to the cross before we spoke, acted, or continued in conflict. This attitude of Jesus is completely opposite from the attitude of…
- "I'll forgive when they come to me first."
- "I don't care what they think because I think I'm right."
- "Why should I go to them, they took it the wrong way."
- "Can you believe what they did or said?"
If we would put on humility, there isn't a conflict in the church that couldn't be handled with love and relationships restored. So we need to check our attitude when we fight. There's almost always adjustments that need to be made. It's all starts with humility.
Remember God's Family is More Important Than The Fight (1:3-8)
When Paul opened this letter, he mentioned how he frequently prays for this church and see the words he used to describe how he thinks and feels about them.
- Thanks (1:3) - in all my remembrance!
- Joy (1:4)
- Heart (1:7) - I hold you in my heart! Affection! Love!
It's only right for me to feel this way about you. Paul had such a high view and feeling for his christian brothers and sisters. How do you view your brothers and sisters? How do you feel about your church family? All of them…
Our disposition to our church family should be one of gratitude, joy, and love. When one of our bothers or sisters pops up in thought, conversation, or wherever it may be, we should feel a deep affection for them.
Paul knew this church. He had been with them before. He knew they weren't perfect people. He knew their personalities. Yet he could only say he was thankful for them every time he thought of them. Why? Because of what they shared. You are partakers of grace with me.
This church supported him financially and spiritually while in his work and while he was in prison. Don't we share the same grace?
We should love all people, but shouldn't we deeply love those who know Jesus in a similar way?
- Shouldn't we be thankful for those who have chosen Christ?
- Shouldn't we be joyful that we work together?
- Shouldn't we hold each other in our hearts when we are walking with Jesus together in a world that is against us?
We must remember God's family is more important than the fight.
- Building matters shouldn't come between us.
- Personality differences shouldn't divide us.
- Angry words should be forgiven.
Whatever it is that comes between us, it isn't big for more important than who we are together in Christ.
God died to restore our relationship with Him. He desires us to be in harmony with Him and each other. We should eagerly pursue the unity Christ has created.
What Should We Do When We Fight?
A. Talk to them, not about them.
The most common response and reaction to our issues with each other is not what God desires or instructs. Here are some responses we might do that are incorrect:
We hold on to it instead of handle it.
Jesus says if our brother is angry with us, we go to them (Matthew 5:23-34). We talk about them, not to them. We tell everybody but them. We talk about our issues (gossip), we slander them to others hoping they will think like us or affirm our side of the situation. By doing this we further divide and create a bigger problem.
We go tell the elders or leadership.
Elders, when people come to you about somebody else, do not listen to that conversation. If they haven't gone to their brother or sister, then you shouldn't be a part of that conversation.
Leaders aren't meant to be the button we press every time there is a conflict, problem, or complaint within the church.
Elders might be a resource if brothers cant resolve issues after going to each other, or a source of counsel and wisdom on how to approach somebody. But they shouldn't be the one we approach to solve every issue.
Go to your brother or sister. 99% of our conflicts would be handled if we went to each other. Talk to them, not about them. Relationships would be restored and it will only bless you if you go to them.
B. Check your thinking
Paul told these Christians:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
- Philippians 4:8
When we get into fights with each other, we should check our thinking. We likely are thinking the worst of each other.We are focusing on the bad in somebody instead of the good. We might get on each others nerves or disagree, we might say something wrong, but that doesn't mean everything about each other is bad.
We shouldn't paint each other with broad brushes. Instead we should remember like Paul did, this is my family. This is God's child. This is God's body. This is somebody who needs grace like myself. This is somebody who Jesus died for. This is somebody who has shortcomings and is human like me. The issues I have with them, I have myself.
Check our thinking, we might realize ours is wrong.
C. Help repair the bridge, not burn it.
Is this building a bridge or damaging one? If anybody ever comes to you about an issue with somebody else, our first response should always be, "it sounds like you need to talk to them about this."
- Leave gossip.
- Change conversations.
- Encourage reconciliation.
- Remind each other of our mutual need for grace and mercy.
- Go to them.
- Think highly of them
- Check your thinking.
- Repair bridges.