There is a story of a man who was stranded on an isolated island. He was alone on this island for many years so he made himself shelter and did the best he could. Eventually the island was discovered and the man was rescued. Before they left, the man decided to give a tour of his island.
He showed the people his hut, proudly saying, “This is the home I built with my own two hands.”
He then showed them another building and said, “This is the church I built with my own two hands.”
On the way one of the people noticed another building and inquired of the man, “Hey, what’s that building over there?”
The man answered, “Oh, that’s where I used to go to church.”
As funny as the story is, just how far from the truth is it? We’ve heard of the stories of churches splitting for the color of the carpet, piano, piano benches, even a peg for a pastor to hang up his hat. Church divisions unfortunately are nothing new and Paul had to deal with it with the Philippian Church:
“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” (Philippians 4:2-3)
As long as churches are made up of fallen humans, and after all churches are made up of people, there will be strife. We don’t know the cause of Euodia and Syntyche’s contention, but it was enough to cause problems in the little church at Philippi to the point Paul had to intervene. It seems Paul had to do that quite a bit.
“For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:11)
Fleshly pride had come to the Corinthian church in the form of who was the better preacher, Apollos, Cephas, or Paul. Paul half-jokingly said he was glad he only baptized two men and another man’s household, “lest anyone should say that I baptized in my own name.”
Why are there so many churches entangled in strife? Paul answers it later in his first letter to the Corinthian church:
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
When we remain in our carnal natures, that is sinful, then we will succumb to fleshly emotions. We begin believing we have spiritual rights when we are called to be bondslaves to Christ. And the saddest part of it is if everyone is looking out for everyone else, then every need is being met.
I understand that sometimes things happen that our beyond our control. Some people just want to be mad and fight and they can destroy a church, but too often we play a part in the contentions not only in our churches, but also in our homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Paul again gives us the recipe for avoiding strife:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:9-18)
Oh my goodness! There is so much to take in from that passage. You might want to read over that jewel a few times and soak in it. The subtitle to this passage in my Bible is aptly “Behave Like a Christian.” OUCH!
Verse 16c left a mark on me: “Do not be wise in your own opinion.”
Beloved, we must be so careful in the coming year as to not lose sight of to Whom we belong. The year 2012 is going to bring much strife and possible tribulation, but we have the blessed hope that is found in Christ Jesus.
Well darn Bro Dave I know we have the blessed hope but you just said we’re going to have strife and tribulation and that makes me anxious!
I know…we’ll deal with that tomorrow.
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Copyright © 2011 David Jeffers