Is it right to fight?

Many Christians love to fight – just as much as unbelievers.

Is it right to fight?  It depends.

Some years ago, a close relative of ours belonged to a church where there was a battle over an expensive new organ.  Some members left the church because of that struggle.

In our travels, we have sometimes seen little churches seemingly sharing the same faith crouching across the street from each other.  Often a trivial difference of opinion or a personality conflict are at the root of church splits.

In my view, such battles are damaging to the Christian church.  Outsiders are turned off Jesus Christ when they see his followers fighting like that.

But is it right to let everything slide when there are differences of opinion?

No, I don’t think so.  The history of the Christian church might be very different today if the apostle Paul had not stood up to the “Judaizers” in the early church.

As you may recall, some early Jewish Christians taught that new non-Jewish Christians should observe Jewish law including circumcision.  Paul objected that such restrictions should not be imposed on new believers.  Christ had fulfilled the law and believers in Christ were now free of these Jewish observances.

There was a debate before the apostles and a later confrontation between Paul and Peter.  The result was a decision in Paul’s favour which placed the spotlight on Christ and what he has done for us and not on fulfilling certain legal requirements.

Clearly, differences on vital aspects of the faith are important.  They can’t be glossed over.

But even when there are faith differences, we are called to be patient, kind and loving.  I admit that’s hard – especially if we are passionate about our positions.

I like the way the apostles dealt with the dispute I mentioned earlier.

The Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 heard demands by Jewish Christians that new non-Jewish believers should follow Jewish customs.  The council discussed the issue, hearing Paul and Barnabas’ experience preaching Christ to non-Jews.  Then, the apostles referred to Christ’s own life and approach and to scripture,  and then gently presented their decision to the council.

It was a reasonable and scripturally-based decision following thoughtful discussion.  There was no hint of condemnation of either Paul or Barnabas or of the Jewish traditionalists.

Of course, there will be instances where agreement can’t be reached.  Sometimes, it is best for people to leave a congregation if they can’t agree with the church’s faith stand.  But there shouldn’t be bitterness and unforgiveness.

How we disagree is almost as important as what we disagree about.

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