Bishop Matthew Thomas (To read more from<br />Bishop Thomas, visit<br />fmcusa.org/<br />matthewthomas.)
Church folks generally know the Bible well enough to know that the church is the body of Christ, and as the body of Christ, we work together as one. I do not know anyone who has gone to church for long who is unfamiliar with the two greatest commandments — to love God with everything in you and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–40).
The Bible tells us repeatedly that we are not called to just get along. We are called to love in a way foreign to the world: forgiving all confessed offenses, going the second mile, eliminating behaviors that might be fine for us but cause others to stumble, and considering the needs of others above our own.
Some confuse this kind of love with just getting along — being fine with others around you. But allow just one hot spot or difference of opinion to develop and see what happens. Getting along is not the biblical mandate. Loving one another is. Love others “deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22) and watch how sins are covered over and people are healed (1 Peter 4:8).
Conflict is inevitable among people who are together for long — whether in church or elsewhere. Our response to and handling of one another before conflict occurs will determine whether conflict will be quickly and thoroughly resolved. When I see and hear of conflict growing and destroying a church, I almost always find people who mistake cordiality and fondness for love. If folks are just focused on getting along and generally liking each other, conflict will upset the cordiality and disrupt the fondness and result in unresolved conflict.
If people sacrificially go out of their way to consider others’ needs and concerns more highly than their own, conflict is minimal and quickly resolved when it occurs. The best way to resolve conflict is also the best way to reduce the number of occurrences in the first place. Read Philippians 2:1–8 and ask, “Does this describe our church?” If so, you likely have few conflicts, and when you do, they don’t amount to much. If not, you may not have many conflicts,
but when you do, they are probably doozies.
Don’t study conflict. Work together as a church to define “love” biblically and apply it practically. Then watch what happens when conflict comes.0