We know that conflict will happen in the Church. As members of the Body, we have a responsibility whether or not we are a part of that conflict. Remember, as discussed in a previous post, we are members of one another. That means what affects one member affects all.
Responsibility When I’m a Part of the Church Conflict
The beginning of Romans 12 talks about how we are members of one another in the Body. It then lists a number of commands about how we are to relate with one another including being devoted to one another and living in harmony with one another. Verse 18 zeroes in on the responsibility of individual members of the Body for this to happen saying, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).
Romans 14 deals with problems that too often bring division in the church … negotiable matters. Throughout the chapter we find reference to our personal accountability in these issues. — “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. … You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. … So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. … Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Rom. 14:4-19)
And, we can’t get around verses like the following:
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)
How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:4-5)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10)
It doesn’t matter who we are, or what position we hold, we are all to “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Pet. 3:8). As the NASB words it, “all of you be harmonious” meaning each individual one of us has a responsibility to do our part to live in harmony with one another.
Leaders: These verses include you too! But, you have an even greater responsibility as shepherds to be “examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:2-3).
Responsibility when I’m Not a Part of the Conflict
Clearly we can see that we have a personal accountability for how we deal with conflict. But, what about conflict within the Church that has nothing to do with us? Should we ignore it? Take sides? Pray for them? Or, help them?
Perhaps the conflict situation in the church of Philippi between two of its women will help us.
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil. 4:2-3)
The Apostle Paul wasn’t even physically present but having heard of this conflict was so concerned about it that he “pleaded” with the women to reconcile. But he didn’t stop there, he asked someone else to “help these women” since they were all members of one another and participants together in the cause of the gospel. Too much was at stake to let this conflict fester. Notice that Paul exhorted them to “be of the same mind in the Lord” not that they had to agree with each other.
Leaders: You might not always be the one to directly bring resolution to conflict within the church but you do have a responsibility to guide the process. When you are the one to help, guard against taking sides. Help people find their commonality and fellowship in the Lord as members of one another. If necessary, help them learn to agree to disagree on certain issues, to extend forgiveness and acceptance, for the sake of Christ, in His name, for His glory, because of Him.
The content on this page about church conflict is in the Steering the Church Toward Body Life Leadership Guide along 24 other tasks in which a leader has responsibility to reflect and promote Body life.