From time to time I come across situations where Christians become involved in a confrontational relationship with their church fellowship. I am aware of at least five cases right now of Christians being in conflict with others in their churches, some of the cases involve leadership.
Even among us there are times where an impasse is reached in Christian relationships that no amount of counseling can correct. I am not saying that Christ has failed. I am saying that as much as one may want that reconciliation, the other party (s) may be steadfast in their position and refuse to reconcile. They may believe their position to be the right one and expect that you will agree with them as a condition of reconciliation, even when you are not in the wrong and have committed no real sin. Worse, is if they want to reconcile under false pretenses with demands and “if/then” conditions, for that is not true reconciliation.
What do we do in such cases? These are fellow Believers and bound by the same law of love that we are, so how are we to respond? We rightfully think that they are a part of our family, because we are all a part of the family of God. We also rightfully think that we are to do everything possible to reconcile with the other person with the exception of sinning to do so.
Division among believers in the church is not a new problem. Paul and Barnabas had a strong disagreement over John Mark (Acts 15:37-39) and the two brothers in Christ went their separate ways. Both still Believers, both still loving Jesus, both still serving Him.
Later on in 1 Corinthians Paul says this:
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 (NASB)
Was Paul promoting division among the members of the church? As a rule, no. However, Paul knew that there are times when people in the church disagree on issues and try as they might there is no reconciliation that takes place at that time.
We all know that many of these disputes are foolish; people get all heated up over the color of the carpeting in the sanctuary or the kind of light fixtures in the narthex. Other disputes are not foolish and have to be addressed.
When sin as it is stated in Scripture is committed it must be confronted, even if the offender is in a leadership position. Of course, Scripture has clear guidelines for personal confrontation (Matt 18) that must be followed. And specific guidelines for a confrontation of an Elder (1 Timothy 5:19).
More on this important subject tomorrow