In my last post I stressed the fact that love ought to be the over-arching motivation behind all of our dealings with other believers. Today I want to highlight the godly result of this love:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15 NIV).
PEACE. After talking about love, Paul stresses the need for peace in our hearts as individuals, and in the church as a whole since we are “one body” that is “called to peace.” Therefore it should go without saying that we cannot have the peace of Christ unless we live out the love of Christ. Unfortunately sometimes we forget this principle. We try to make peace through war. Sadly, this happens a lot. This occurs when a brother in Christ is so convinced of the rightness of his standpoint that he will do whatever it takes to “win.” He thinks he will have peace once everyone else gets in line and accepts his viewpoint. But He is wrong, since his methods of conflict resolution create new conflict in and of themselves. Being right, even on an important doctrinal issue never justifies war-like strategies in the church.
The Bible tells us what strategies to use in order to deal with disagreements and sin in the church (Matthew 7:1-5, 18:15-17, I Timothy 5:19-20). These passages tell us that if we are genuinely concerned about a sin or attitude in our brother’s life that we should approach him in person to try to get his side of the story. If it turns out that his sin is serious and that He is resisting Biblical advice, then we may need to take one or two more witnessess to talk with him and plead with him to repent. Finally, if this fails he may need to be corporately disciplined and put out of Christian fellowship until he repents.
Sadly, many Christians forget to act in peace and love when they fight with each other, and they use strategies that are not endorsed by scripture. One strategy they will use is gossip. Something does not have to be a lie in order to be gossip. Any criticism of another person that does not follow the guideliness mentioned above is gossip. For instance, going around the church telling other members about a pastor’s addiction to drugs is gossip. Instead you need to talk to him about it first, and then bring a few more people with you secondly if he refuses to address the problem in his life. The final step is to make the matter public, preferably with the endorsement of the elders (unity is important in making this step, it may take patience to achieve this). You should not tell third parties about the pastor’s problem behind his back. Rather, you and the other witnesses need to work with him in love and patience. Do not spread rumors about the pastor’s sin among the congregation until you are ready to go public! Be very careful not to listen to or to spread gossip. It is wrong.
Another warlike strategy that people use in order to fight battles in the church, is refusing to talk to each other. This strategy is only justified in a few very rare circumstances. You cannot expect peace to reign in the body of Christ if people don’t love each other and care for the church enough to accept an invitation to talk to each other. You should welcome an opportunity to get another persepective (proverbs 18:17).
Finally, we should avoid public displays of rage (Psalm 37:8). Christians are supposed to be people characterized by self control (Proverbs 25:28, Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). Sending out angry e-mails, outbursts of anger during public meetings, and walking out of a sermon over a private issue that has not yet been made public are common ways that churchgoers publicly display rage. This is wrong.
So let us get our focus back on love and peace. Yes, we need to be right, but we should speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). The end does not justify the means.