Jesus told us in John 16:33: "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” With these words, our Savior pointed to the fact that we live in a fallen world where we are bound to clash with others. This is no less true among Christians. Within the pages of Scripture, we see examples of believers at odds with one another.
Perhaps the best illustration is the Church at Corinth. Here was a young congregation who had come from a pagan society. They were growing at a rapid rate, and when Paul left them, they seemed to be moving in the right direction. However, their background and the sin nature held them back. A description of Corinth as noted in "The MacArthur Study Bible" introduction to this letter indicates the following: "Even by the pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. In I Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul lists some of the specific sins for which the city was noted and which formerly had characterized many believers in the church there" (pg. 1681).
In addition to their carnality and immaturity, the believers there also could not get along and broke into factions. When Apollos (a gifted teacher) came to minister, a group of his admirers formed a clique and did not mingle with others in the church. Another group clung to Paul and still others pledged their allegiance to Peter. Of course, there were also those who proclaimed their loyalty to Christ alone ( I Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-9). These factions were creating a good deal of disunity in the Body. Each group felt they had the right perspective, teacher and direction.
John MacArthur points out, though, that the greatest problem the Corinthians had was their worldliness: "...an unwillingness to divorce the culture around them. Most of the believers could not consistently separate themselves from their old, selfish, immoral, and pagan ways" (pg. 1682). Now if we step back after considering this, how many churches today fall into the same problems that these believers had? I would venture to say that many do. Why?
One of the chief reasons goes back to the sin nature. While the power of sin is broken by the blood of Jesus Christ in the life of a believer, we still have to deal with unrealistic expectations, old habits, prejudices and selfishness. As someone once pointed out, the church would be perfect if it wasn't for all the people. Imperfect people on the road of sanctification are bound to collide in their opinions, thoughts and outlooks. It takes time to grow in Christ, and therefore, we need to extend the love of God to one another as we walk along. The Apostle wrote these words in Romans 12:17-19: "…17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.…" This, then, should be our goal when our visions crash into one another.
Disagreements and development of factions can happen in any group, but it can either be an opportunity for growth in the church as we work through these or it can bring division. Our goals should be to love one another and maintain a bond of unity. This brings glory to the Lord. Likewise, our witness before the world is enhanced when we treat one another with respect. The Body of Christ is meant to work together even when we have disagreements. With this in mind, let it be our goal to think more highly of others than we think of ourselves. Selah!