Christians Fighting Christians!
It should not surprise anyone that the followers of Jesus fight each other. An honest look at the New Testament scriptures reveals the sobering fact that even before the Holy Spirit descended and gave birth to the church, the followers of Jesus were already fighting.
They fought over popularity, position, and power. They fought and argued over the use of money, managing access to Jesus, and the very character and nature of Jesus. I believe it is fair to say that just like two of the pre- Christian ancestors (Jacob and Esau), the church was born fighting.
Jesus’ last Upper Room prayer with the disciples was a prayer for unity among the disciples and those subsequent followers. Jesus prayed that we would become united and function as one. There have been brief moments and sample-sized examples of Jesus’ prayer coming to fruition but overall, sad to say, unity has not become the norm among Christians.
Martin E. Marty wrote an article in October of 2015 titled, Christians fighting Christians. Martin made the statement, “Cynics, but not only cynics, like to observe, not always inaccurately, that Christians are never happy unless they are fighting -- each other.”
Shortly after becoming a District Superintendent, I was asked, “What do you do?” My response was quick and simple, “I referee church fights!” Even as a Bishop, I spend an awful lot of my time, assisted by the Cabinet and a very gifted staff, trying to settle church fights.
Christians fight over the dumbest of things! Churches argue and split over things that have absolutely little or nothing to do with them personally or locally. There are times that I want to say, as Jesus did to the disciple John, “What is that to you?”
I believe if we focus on the ministry needs that are right in front of us, we would be so busy and so overwhelmed that we would have no time to get caught up in how others are engaging their respective areas in a different manner. Much like Nehemiah, we would be consumed by our own work, and we simply would not have time to stop our important work to engage in the affairs of others. In short, we would trust the Lord of the harvest to know how and when to separate the weeds and the wheat.
Christians fighting Christians is always a costly battle and there are no winners. Everyone loses when we fight. The results are alwaysnegative:
· Credibility is tarnished or shattered
· Ministry is hampered or hindered
· People laugh at and mock us as hypocrites
· Our community witness and influence diminish and becomes irreparably damaged
· Mission and ministry take a back seat and is often ignored altogether
· The body of Christ is saddled with shame
· We assist the enemy of our faith in the war against the spreading of Christianity
Fighting seems to be built into our DNA as Christians. Fighting, however, is not what Jesus desires.
Jesus calls us to love one another and to be at peace with each other. This is only possible when we become individually committed to the pursuit of Christlikeness. Jesus did not demand that it be, “my way or the highway.” Jesus emptied himself and offered himself in service to others. Jesus listened carefully to the voice of God and did that which was costly and uncomfortable to himself so that others might be spared eternal pain and everlasting defeat.
I have noticed that in our current church “battle royale” each “side” is claiming and crying foul and unfair play on the part of others. I have not heard anyone say, individually or church-wide, “I’m sorry and I am regretful and repentant for any harm that I have caused you or the body of Christ. Please forgive me, I have sinned against God and against you.”
It is only when we become personally invested in stopping the fight, that armistice will come. I am convinced that we are all running out of time and that our attention and focus needs to be on seeking, serving, and saving this dying world, and not on Christians fighting Christians. My prayer remains hope-filled, “Let there be peace, and let it begin with me!”