With so much conflict in the world, one could hope the church would be a conflict-free zone.
Far from it. The Bible speaks clearly about the Church’s enemy who stirs up discord and strife. And if you’ve been around the Church for even some time, you’ve likely seen it.
I’ve been involved in Church my whole life and in leadership since I reached an age where leadership opportunities became available.
Small groups, pretending to be friends, treat their own members brutally.
People poised to react rather than respond, attack rather than listen.
Individuals assume a leadership role for the specific purpose of taking others down.
Abuse of power, its personal and corporate devastation.
The hard work required to attempt to heal backfire on the very ones working to bring peace.
Bad leadership, bad followership, political infighting, and church splits.
All that and I still love the Church. I’m still involved, still in leadership. But why does it seem the Church is hell-bent on living out that old question: With friends like these, who needs enemies?
We can blame it on the enemy, the Church’s enemy or our perceived human enemy. We can blame it on circumstances, constraints, resources, human nature.
Truly, I think it comes down to one thing: conflict erupts when those in the Church take their eyes off Jesus Christ.
When we agree that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, fully God and fully human;
that He came to show us the way back to our Heavenly Father, to take the punishment for our sins;
because He loves us that much;
that He sent us His Spirit to guide us day in and out;
and that He calls us to love Him and others as ourselves…
…well, that ought to result in reliance on Him to help us love one another even (especially) when it’s hard. It ought to bring about unity and the willingness to put aside our agendas to listen well. It ought to shape our prayers and our behavior as we look at one another with God’s loving eyes.
We can disagree on a lot of other issues if we agree on that.
When conflict erupts, it would sure help if we got back to basics.
Walk in Love
Week 5: Hold to the Truth
1 John 2:18-27
Reflect a recent conflict you’ve encountered and how you handled it.
Read aloud 1 John 2:18-27.
How does John explain what has happened in his church (vv18-19)?
What is “the truth” and what is a lie (vv20-25)?
How does John use his followers’ “anointing” to equip and encourage them (vv20, 27)?
What is the relationship between knowing the truth and remaining in the Son?
Have you ever experienced a church split or other significant split of Christian community? What did you learn from the experience?
Why does it matter what we believe about Jesus?
What does your anointing mean to you?
How do you ‘remain’ in the Son?
Reflect on this quote: “Christian life is not merely a cognitive embrace of Christ; it is an engagement, an encounter with Christ in the Spirit.”—Gary M. Burge.
How could someone try to lead you astray today?
What significance does ‘the end’ have for you? How might you live with ‘the end’ in mind?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?
Ask God to fill you with knowledge of and experience with His beloved Son.
Note: I highly recommend the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. For more information, check out Peacemaker Ministries.