Why Christians don’t always get along with each other and What can be done about it
And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Why is Christians not getting along with other Christians even a thing? What can we do about it?
Short Answer: Because we’re all at different stages and Nothing
Shorter Answer: Jesus and Jesus.
For as members of one body you are called to live in peace... Paul points out what is wrong with us as individuals: We do what we don’t want to do and we don’t do what we do want to do because our trouble isn’t with God but our sin nature. We agree wholeheartedly with God’s Laws and what Jesus has done for us. But, Paul shares this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin (Romans 7:14-25). That kind of explains it. If Christians as individuals are having tiny daily wars within themselves, then Christians as a group might experience similar conflicts with each other since we are members of one Body and our own bodies within the Body has struggles.
So 2 Corinthians 13:11 tells us what we should be aiming for: Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
And Ephesians 4:3 points out that we are like minded in that we agree with everything that Jesus ever said and all that he has ever done for us. Christians agree on Jesus. But it takes effort and teamwork to agree agreeably. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
So, God has provided wise people to help. Ephesians 4:13 says that pastors, teachers, and elders will continue being responsible for equipping Believers in the Faith until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. And here’s the rub: Believers are not all on the same page at the same time... yet. We are at various stages of maturity. So there is conflict. Conflict within the church.
Paul gives excellent advice in Ephesians 4:2. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. And this is what we aim for. We understand we need this love to be showered upon us by others as much as we need to dish it out. But we all also live with Paul’s inner struggle, we all are at different stages of maturing in our faith, so we inevitably live with conflict with other Believers from time to time.
If I am to be united in the Spirit with other Believers, then maybe I also need to seek out Believers I am like-minded with. For example, a Believer who has strong personal opinions about food won’t be good company for someone who is free from that. Paul uses this very example in 1 Corinthians 8 and cites that these conflicts are due to different levels of maturity in Christ. But! He also points out that the responsibility lies on the mature Believer being the one who must be careful so that (their) freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9).
But a mature Believer, careful as they may be, still has little wars waging in their hearts on occasion, doing what they don’t mean to do and meaning to do what they don’t do.
Even Paul himself stopped ministering with his faithful partner Barnabas at one point. Here’s two mature Believers working together in the church now not working together anymore. They had a disagreement about taking John Mark with them on their next trip. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there without his partner, Barnabas. And Barnabas and John Mark continued working in ministry as well. But not with Paul. Paul sought out someone he was in agreement with, Silas, in order to continue his ministry.
Are there occasions for me to seek out Believers I’m in agreement with in order to be united. Is this the effort required for making every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit? It doesn’t mean I don’t love everybody, but it does show that this side of heaven we will not always be able to work with or, as in Paul’s case, even be around all Believers all the time in a state of like-minded bliss.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t work towards unity and hope for restoration just because there are times when we don’t live in it. Even Paul calls for John Mark (the object of his sharp disagreement) to come be with him in his last days (2 Timothy 4:11). Looks like Paul did aim for restoration and make every effort after all, but let God bring about the timing for all the hearts involved.
So I will too... In the meantime we seek out and work with those with whom we are like-minded so that we can experience the unity to which we have been called. AND, at the same time, we entrust the restoration of the entire Body to the Lord. He worked it all out for Paul, so I’m positive he still knows how to do that, and that he will do it for me too, and for all the Believers. I should just keep working with the ones I am united with until we are ALL united together and restored. Every single one!
Along with aiming for peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control you ask me to aim for unity. And I thank you for your grace that makes unity possible, and I thank you for your grace still being showered on us where unity isn’t happening making restoration a real and true reality to hope for, wait for, and to be excited about. I love you so much, and I do pray for the group of people who all have your Grace in common to all get along. Help me to make allowances for other’s faults, to be humble and gentle, and to always aim for restoration. Thank you that Jesus makes absolutely every bit of this possible and showers me with grace and hope in the meantime. I love you and thank you and pray in Jesus’ name, amen.