Summary: Why does conflict happen in the body of Christ?
Conflict in the church
In Charles Colson’s book, the Body, there is a chapter entitled “Extending the right fist of Fellowship.” It tells the story of and event that took place in the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Newton, Massachusetts, when a church conflict actually broke out into a fistfight at the altar of the church.
It was the right hook that got him. Pastor Waite might have stood in front of the communion table trading punches with head deacon Ray Bryan all morning, had not Ray’s fist caught him on the chin 2 minutes and 15 seconds into the fight. Waite went down for the count at the altar where most members of Emmanuel Baptist Church had first declared their commitment to Christ.
Within and instant, the majority of the congregation converged on the communion table, punching or shoving. The melee soon spilled over to an open space between the organ. Mary Dahl, the director of the Dorcas Society, threw a hymnal; the missile sailed high and wide and splashed down in the baptistery behind the choir.
When Ray’s right hook finally took the pastor down, someone grabbed the spring flower arrangement from the altar and threw it high in the air in Ray’s direction. Water sprinkled everyone in the first two rows on the right side, and a visiting Presbyterian experienced complete immersion when the vase shattered against the wall next to his seat. The fight ended when the police arrived on the scene.
Proverbs 13:10 says, “Pride only breeds quarrels,” (NIV) It is pride that makes us lust and covet and envy. Whenever conflict is in our lives as believers it is born out of the flesh. When our flesh is fed we are capable of doing anything, or saying anything.
James doesn’t mix words. Remember he is the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. He writes this word to believers at the church in Jerusalem to show them and us Practical Christian Living. He tells us that Conflict in the Church must be dealt with. This mentality that problems just go away really isn’t true. Conflict will always be there because we believers have a pride problem.
Gary Smalley says, “In most cases people respond to conflict in two ways;
They withdraw—Feeling that they are wrong or that their beliefs and views aren’t valued can lead to feelings of inferiority. The conflict is never resolved because feelings get tucked away.
They get angry—This person tends to attack verbally. Backed into a corner they mi8ght come out swinging, (just like the altar brawl earlier). If they don’t resolve the conflict the anger comes out in other ways.
So let’s today see how the Bible defines conflict in the life of the believer.
I. The Reason for Conflict (v.1) The word “desires” means to crave pleasure; to crave gratification. This Scripture says that desire for pleasure and gratification wars within our bodies. The picture is that of constant warfare, of our bodies craving, yearning, pulling, urging, desiring, and grasping after whatever will gratify our pleasure.
We want and want, desire and desire, and the battle of wanting and desiring rages on and on within our bodies. Our bodies are a battlefield of wants and desires. Every person knows what it is to experience this warfare. Desire is strong and difficult to control. In fact, few people control it completely.
It is within this battle of our own desires that conflict arises.
Notice two truths:
A. Inside Conflict—(v.1a,c) the word “wars” refers to an inward battle. It means an inner state of chronic conflict strife within us that can burst into an explosion. It is a sense or turmoil in us. Bible scholars translate the words, “among us” as “in us.” Therefore this struggle is not between people, but a struggle within people.
Notice also that word “war” it is derived from a word that means an armed camp. It is referring to the believer as a soldier in battle. This battle within is examined in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,” (NKJ) Paul also reminded Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:4, “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (NKJ)
This inside conflict is within us and warring against us to trap us in sin.
B. Outside Conflict—(v.1b) “fights” here is the outward expression of the inward conflict. The fight we looked at in introduction was a battle for control of something. Perhaps the church itself, but really it was the desire for power and control that lay within each member. When that conflict is not dealt with the inner turmoil becomes an outward explosion.
In the book Anger and Conflict in the Workplace, Lynne McClure hits the nail on the head. She says we have to let go of control. Letting Go involves two steps, “We have to accept the fact that we can’t always have our way and We have to acknowledge, to ourselves, that even though we “know” this, we still don’t like it.” (pg. 36)