At this point in time, Rick and I were pre-teen brothers waiting for our mother to drive us to school. Rick and I generally got along well, but this particular morning was not one of those congenial occasions.
Of course, fighting is not confined to a pre-teen age bracket. Many adults fight. In the past century, this planet has endured two world wars and an avalanche of other international fights. Attacks and counterattacks occur with sickening frequency. And the ‘adult’ fighting continues.
Sadly, the tendency to fight has infected the Church of Jesus Christ. I’ve read numerous articles about church fights and church splits. Perhaps you have been at a congregational meeting—or a church committee meeting---where the atmosphere turned ugly and vicious.
Don’t get me wrong: Sometimes, conflict in the Church is unavoidable. Sometimes, a stand must be taken and the authority of Scripture must be defended. Sometimes, it is vital to safeguard the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the sufficiency of His Gospel.
At other times, however, some churchgoers who fight may prefer to fight. It is possible that most church fights are prompted by the collective thrill of ecclesiastical combat. When that happens, barbs and fevered rhetoric and character assassination tend to supplant biblical trademarks of God-honoring truth and Christian love.
In the 1st century A.D., churches in Galatia had problems with fighting. Paul’s letter to the Galatians----while affirming the importance of Christ and His Gospel—discouraged the sinful tendency to simply fight for the sake of fighting. In Gal.5:14, Paul quoted the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In v.15, he wrote:”If you bite and devour one another, beware, lest you be consumed by one another.” Then, after contrasting the ‘works of the flesh’ with the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, he declared: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (v.25).
In Matt.5:9a, Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers” instead of “Blessed are those who fight all the time.” Eph.4:3 instructs us to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” instead of “make sure you get in the last word.” 1 Peter 4:8 begins with the language “Above all things have fervent love for one another” instead of a recommendation to “deliver a crushing rhetorical punch to all churchgoers who disagree with you.”
The final verse of Scripture says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Rev.22:21).
Therefore, we do well to heed the words of John Newton’s hymn-prayer:
"May the Grace of Christ our Savior And the Father's boundless love,
With the Holy Spirit's favor, Rest upon us from above.
Thus may we abide in union With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion, Joys which earth cannot afford."