Summary: We can maintain joy in the midst of disagreement by remembering that (1) conflict happens even in good churches,(2) conflict has consequences and (3) Sometimes you need help in resolving a conflict.
“Restoring the Joy”
A Study of the Book of Philippians
Lesson # 10
“Maintaining Joy in the Midst of Disagreement”
“In the late l800s there were just two deacons in a small Baptist church in Mayfield County, Kentucky. One Sunday, one of the deacons put up a small wooden peg in the back wall so the minister could hang up his hat. When the other deacon discovered the peg, he was outraged that he had not been consulted. Before long, the church took sides and eventually split. To this day, the story goes, you can find in Mayfield County, Kentucky, the Anti-peg Baptist Church.” [Doyle Young. New Life For Your Church. (p. 63)
Have you ever been a part of or at least a bystander to a conflict within the church family. If you have you know how painful it can be. Church’s actually split, friends divide, and competing sides charge each other with being “unChristian.”
There are many reasons why churches go through times of turmoil. Sometimes the issues are important and involve the spiritual soundness of the church. Most of the time, however, the turmoil is over petty and insignificant issues. Many churches have split over issues as simple as the choice of a hymnbook or the color of the carpet.
These church conflicts bring about deep scars in the body of Christ. And in the process our reputation is stained in the community. In John 13:35 Jesus taught his disciples that they were to be known by their love one for another. In the great Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:23-24) told his listeners that if one were at the altar and remembered something that someone had against them they should leave their offering at the altar and go then and be reconciled to their brother. Jesus knew that you can’t truly worship when you are at odds with a brother or sister. In His high priestly prayer (John 17:21) Jesus prayed that his followers “might be one.” It would appear that God wants his children to get along.
From the story before us today we can see four general principles concerning “Maintaining Joy in the Midst of Disagreement.”
“Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
(2) I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. (3) 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. (4) Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
First, Conflict Happens Even In Good Churches. Even in good churches you find brethren who have differences with each other; such was the case with the church at Philippi. Paul begins by telling the people of Philippi that they are his joy and crown - (stephanos) literally a victor’s crown. He literally views these Christians as his reward - his trophies of grace. He realizes that when he stands before the Lord to give an account of his life, these whom he has won to the Lord, will be tangible symbols of his spiritual work.
But there is a problem, there are thorns in Paul’s crown and that thorn is disagreement among the brethren. Even as saved members of the body of Christ, personalities are still going to clash, we still get our feeling hurt and we have times when we are so overwhelmed with our lives that we are not easy to get along with. People still disappoint us and we have different approaches to how problems should be solved.
But the real problem comes from a loss of perspective. A story is told that, “One day, a father took his son and one of his son’s friends on a fishing trip. They got to their camp site and everything was perfect. The weather was warm but not hot, the lake was calm, and they even had a level campsite. They raised their tent, cooked their dinner, and went to bed anticipating several day of great fishing. When they woke up the next morning they discovered that a cold front had come through during the night. It was now in the low 40’s and a cold wind was blowing. They stayed in their tent most of the day and occupied themselves telling stories and playing silly games with one another to make the best of a bad situation.
They went to bed that night hoping that things would be better the next day. The next day was more of the same. Only now, it had begun to rain. Once again they tried to wait it out and occupy themselves in the tent, But by the end of the day, everyone was on edge and angry at one another. They decided to pack up and head home. The moral of the story is they discovered that when fisherman don’t fish they fight.” [Darryl McAuley. “Make It Right” Sermon on Phil 4:1-4. www.SermonCentral.com ] That is also true of the church – when we are not busy doing what we are suppose to be doing, we are a lot more susceptible to disagreement.