Have you ever seen a firestorm? The flames are shooting skyward to unbelievable heights. As the air heats and rushes upward, cool air rushes in at the lower level to fill the vacuum created. Now, you have winds blowing toward the fire and winds inside the inferno shooting upward.
Get out of its way.
The word “maelstrom” comes to mind here. It’s a Dutch word that literally means a “grinding stream.” (I keep wanting the “strom” to mean “storm,” but Webster says it’s “stream.”) Think of a whirlpool that is sucking everything into its vortex.
Think: church fight.
Ever been in one? If you have, you’ll never want to be in another. Once is enough forever.
There is only one who enjoys a knock-down drag-out among the people of God and he is the original fallen angel himself, the great dragon, the accuser of the brethren, Lucifer, the father of lies and the sire of everything unholy.
I have never personally been a warrior in a church fight. However, I know far more than I would like about them. As pastor I have a) observed neighboring churches waging war among themselves, b) dealt with the aftermath of fights in churches I pastored, and c) heard countless horror stories from the walking wounded who had come through the religious wars.
Before dealing with the scriptural instructions on what our response should be to these battles of the faithful, let me issue the one overwhelming principle which should guide all of us:
Walk away from it.
No issue is worth tearing up a church.
Even if truth is at stake–and it always is, if we are to believe the parties involved–and even if the eternal destinies of people hang in the balance, the way to resolve a conflict is not by tearing a church asunder.
A famous line from the Vietnam War era, uttered by those who wanted to stop that no-win conflict and pull our soldiers out, asked, “What if they gave a war and no one came?”
If no one will fight, there’s no battle.
It’s a great idea.
You will want to drop back and read I Peter 2:21-25 (we included it in the previous article). Now, ask yourself one question: “Can anyone looking at how Jesus endured the cross think for a moment that He wants us to take up arms against our brother or sister in the congregation?”
But, pastor, you don’t understand! We’re in the right here. The other side has done wrong. They’re unbiblical, ungodly, immature, headstrong, stiff-necked, and on top of that, they’re taunting us. We can’t let this go unaddressed.
You are a fool if you believe that.
All the right is on one side and all the offenses on the other. Give me a break. It’s not true of your marriage, not true in the Second World War, not true in our present struggle against radical Islamic terrorism, and not true in your church fight.
That is not to say–let me rush to make this clear or some will read no further!–that each side has as much claim to right and truth and justice as the other.
Rather, no one in a church fight ever thinks of himself or herself as the aggressor, but always the aggrieved.
So, in a church conflict–and that’s our subject here–do not buy the lie that your side has all truth and the others are a bunch of evil-doers who want only to run roughshod over the lovers of all that is good and holy.
If you forget for a moment that you are a sinner saved by grace and deserve to spend eternity in hell, you are a goner. You get pulled into the maelstrom and caught up in the firestorm that is consuming your church’s peace, destroying its unity and killing its missionary heart.
According to Scripture, here is what we should do….