Christians are commanded to love one another (John 13:34,35; 1 John 4:16-21; 3:11-18). But the reality frequently does not seem to reflect that. We are commonly divided against ourselves, both without and within (James 4:1-3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Galatians 5:15). We break up into a multitude of antagonistic groups, often over minor issues. And even on the local level we struggle with splits, fights, or simply people walking out over some affront on a constant basis. It is hard to see this as reflecting the unity God says we should have (John 17:20-26; Philippians 2:1,2; Ephesians 4:3-6). How do we deal with the problem?
Scripture says the basis of the strife between Christians is when we put our own pleasures first (James 4:1-3; Philippians 2:3,4; Titus 3:3). But one of the dangers here is, it is very easy sometimes to cloak this type of dissension with a spiritual veneer. I can lay claim to “my ministry,” “my Sunday School class,” “my congregation,” or “my denomination” as though it is something that belongs to me, and I can end up furthering my interests (or at least the interests I have laid claim to), convincing myself I am promoting God and His work. I can think I am being spiritual and defending what is right when I am really promoting my ego. Now the problem here is that there is a place where we do need to stand up for what is right. But we need to examine our own motives and approach each issue with the right attitude (Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Galatians 6:1).
Another danger is the desire to conform to the world (James 4:4; Romans 12:1,2; 1 John 2:15-17). We set our minds and our hearts on what the world values and live our lives for that. We value the world’s respect more than the truth of the Word of God or harmony with other Christians, and we end up fighting over these things. Now again, there is some truth in the error. We do need to reach out to those on the outside by meeting them where they are (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Matthew 9:11-13; Luke 19:10). But once again it can be easy to convince ourselves that we are really doing this to reach people when we are simply justifying our own desires.
The cure for this is humility (James 4:6-10; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 5:5-7). And this brings us back to the gospel. We are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) saved by the grace of God (Romans 5:6-8; Colossians 2:13,14; Ephesians 2:8,9). And that should put in perspective our opinions, our desires, and our conceits. Yes, there is a place where we need to stand up for God’s truth. But we need to examine our hearts first to see if what is involved is God’s truth and not what we want. That we may not continue to fight and divide over what is unimportant in God’s sight.