Most of us still fight dirty. Yes, we’re Christians. Yes we love Christ, but we must always remember that, though we’re saved by grace, we continue to struggle against the indwelling presence of sin. Because we’re sinners saved by grace we will occasionally, if not often, fight dirty when conflict in the church arises. Sometimes I wish we could fight like my brother and I did when we were kids. We’d put on our mini karate outfits, start punching, and the first one to get hit in the crotch was the loser. Remarkably, the rest of our day would proceed without incident as we continued to play together. If only church conflict was this simple.
I’ve only been a pastor for about 3 years, but in my brief time I’ve witnessed or been involved in some form (minor or major) of conflict in the church, probably every 3 months or so. Mind you, that’s an estimate, but it’s pretty fair.* I began wondering if all the conflict I was witnessing was similar in other churches, asking myself, “Is this how people fight everywhere…yikes…is this how I fight?” Consequently, I’ve been casually polling other pastors I know on the behaviors and tactics we employ in conflict. What I’d like to do is share the list with you, but save the explanations for another post. In each exposition it is my intention and desire to demonstrate examples of this behavior in Scripture (many of them from the conflict seen in the ministry of Jesus).
Here’s the list…
Conflict in Behavior
Sinful Crap We Do When We Sinfully Fight With other Sinners
1. We Fail to see one another as objects of God’s grace
2. We Posture and Position ourselves, i.e., we remind our opponents of our credentials in an attempt to implicitly discredit anything they say.
3. We Attack Character
4. We Create Enemies where there are none, i.e., “Us vs. Them” language
5. We Play the Victim
6. We Tend to Reject Reason and Appeal to Emotion
7. We Refuse To Accept Any Blame or Own Any Guilt
AND, Depending on the Nature of the Conflict:
1. We Cite Anonymous Support e.g., “Lots of people feel this way” or “Several people have told me” usually means, “I feel this way and have gossiped about it enough to convince my spouse to feel this way…and also that guy who left the church along time ago because he got tired of us telling him to stop shacking up with his girlfriend”).
2. We Appeal to Tradition, “But we’ve always done it this way.”
3. We Spiritually Justify Our Words and Behavior (usually when they’re anything but spiritual).
So there’s the list as it stands now. I imagine it will be refined as life experience and conflict refine my own life. Come back soon for explanations on what each one of them tend to look like in our lives as well as some biblical examples and commands, not to mention God’s prescription for resolving conflict and the startling implications of unresolved conflict in our lives.
*Incidentally, please don’t assume that life at Central Valley is all conflict. If you’re a member or regular attender you know this isn’t the case and we’ve never even been close to anything resembling a split in the time that I’ve been here. Life at Central Valley is largely marked by charity, grace, love, laughter and people who wrestle deeply with Scripture.