I recently saw a bumper sticker that said, "Christians aren't perfect, only forgiven." As fallible human beings, Christians will occasionally find themselves in conflict or disagreement with each other.
If two Christians have a disagreement, and one of them is clearly wrong, it could be due to the following:
A lack of maturity
Confusion concerning God's will
Differing methods of accomplishing the same goal
Lack of spiritual discernment
If you find yourself in serious disagreement with another Christian, what should you do?
Pray for Wisdom
James advises, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).* Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's direction. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would "teach you all things" (John 14:26).
Meet with Your Fellow Believer Personally
Go to the person and "show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over'" (Matthew 18:15). Furthermore, Jesus said that if the person repents, forgive him (Luke 17:3). Paul advised the Romans to be devoted to one another in brotherly love. "Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10).
Realize That Sometimes Both Parties May Be Right
If the issue involves a personal disagreement, rather than a Biblical wrong, leave the other person to God, and agree to disagree. Then, in deciding to go your separate ways, recognize that God may have a purpose in allowing the situation. Maintaining the right attitude toward the other person is crucial. Be open to the possibility that God may bring you both back together in the future.
When Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them, the apostle Paul did not think it wise to take him, because Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia during their first missionary journey, and he had not continued with them in the work. They had such a "sharp disagreement" that Paul and Barnabas parted company. "Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord" (Acts 15:39– 40).
God may have been impressing Barnabas to do one thing, and Paul another. In which case, both were trying to obey God, and both were right in doing what they did. God blessed the efforts of Paul and Silas, as well as those of Barnabas and Mark.
Paul later said of Mark, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). In Colossians 4:10, Paul mentions that Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, sent his greetings to the Colossians, and he encouraged them to welcome Mark, if he visited them.
Choose Someone to Mediate
If the disagreement involves other people, consider choosing a mediator to help resolve the problem. When some men from Judea were teaching the Christians in Antioch that they must follow Mosaic Law and be circumcised, "This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question" (Acts 15:2). The apostles and elders decided to choose two of their own men, Silas and Judas, to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, to deliver the Jerusalem Council's decision. When the people read the letter, they were encouraged, and Judas and Silas said much to encourage and strengthen them (Acts 15:31–32).
When the Grecian Jews complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily food distribution, the apostles gathered all the disciples together and said, "'Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them . . . .' This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:3–5). The conflict was successfully resolved, and the number of believers increased rapidly (6:7).
Remember to Whom We Are Accountable
As Christians, we are responsible only for our own attitudes and actions. If we seriously disagree with another believer and have tried our best to resolve the dispute, yet our efforts have been unsuccessful, we must still treat the person with love and respect, and leave the results with the Lord.
© by Howard W. Stevens
*All Scripture verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.