Nothing is quite so distressing as witnessing brothers and sisters in the faith at odds with one another. Even those who are not part of the disagreement can get pulled into the conflict because the parties in disagreement want mutual friends and acquaintances to side with them. I can tell you I have been on all sides of such turmoil and there is no enviable position in the lot.
Social media tends to aggravate such conflicts because “liking” the post of another seems to indicate that you are in full agreement with every aspect of that person’s life and views. Likewise, it is so easy to click the “post” button before you have had a chance to measure your words and possibly “sleep on” your response. For something called Facebook, people tend to hurt each other without confronting each other face-to-face.
None of us who are still on this earth are fully sanctified, and that reality needs to be taken into consideration. Also, because social media doesn’t lend itself to evaluating body language, mole hills can turn into mountains almost instantaneously. Furthermore, it is all too easy to fail to recognize that in their service to God, some of our brothers and sisters have a different focus than we do. Because their area of concern or priority sometimes steps on our toes, doesn’t mean they are our enemies. We would do well to recognize the three Rs of fulfilling the Great Commission:
Repair—Some are called to help the broken, distraught, and abused. By the very nature of the function they perform, there will be those who distrust their motives and disagree with their priorities, especially if they call attention to areas of systemic, problematic practices.
Restore—Some are called to assist those who have violated God’s covenant, have repented, and want to be restored into fellowship. Again, by nature of the focus of this kind of ministerial effort, there will be those who make assumptions about the motives involved and take issue with their loyalty to God’s Word.
Reconstruct—Some are called to rebuild the culture from the bottom up, focusing their attention on education, family, and establishing a firm foundation for the future. Because this is such a comprehensive undertaking, many of these people can be very outspoken. Some assign the labels of “judgmental,” “arrogant,” and “unloving” to these efforts, claiming that those who advocate in these areas are not compassionate and come across in a non-Christ-like fashion.
If you cannot relate to these scenarios, count yourself blessed. But I have witnessed (and am witnessing) situations like these all around me. As flawed individuals working out our salvation with fear and trembling, we are bound to irritate, confound, enrage, and/or wound those within the family of God. I don’t say this to commend these occurrences, but to point out that they are inevitable. Without God’s law, we wouldn’t have a prayer to resolve our difficulties with each other, and that is why it needs to be the bedrock of how we operate. We would also do well to acknowledge that we don’t always have all the pertinent information at hand, and should be cautious about relying on our first impressions. Instead, we must consult the Word of God to come to proper conclusions.
It is good to remember that there were conflicts among those in the early church and there were times when good people found it difficult to work side by side. It’s too easy from where we sit to assume that serious issues did not arise among the Biblical saints we look to as examples.
I believe we need to acknowledge these three Rs and remember a fourth one: We are all relatives if we are united to Christ, and our enemies should only be classified as enemies if they are truly the enemies of God.