By Tim P. Stevens
Since the beginning of time, there has always been conflict among people Evidence of this is found in the early chapters of the first book of the Bible. We can read of conflict in our world’s history, of nations at war with one another. We have learned that our own country was once divided and involved in one of the most hitter and bloodiest conflicts ever the American Civil War. And even today, the news media keep us informed of the continuation of conflict in; our world, our nation, our states and out cities.
Unfortunately, the conflicts among men carried over into the Lord’s church, his kingdom. During the first century, John wrote “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God” (3 Jn. 9-1 1). Conflict in the church continues even today as some brethren “battle it out” for various reasons. Some of t se reasons may be unknown to some, but according to the Scriptures. God is fully aware of what’s going on, especially within his family. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). “And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give ac-count” (Heb. 4:13).
Most people dislike conflict and try to avoid it if possible. That’s good! However, there are times when we have no other choice but to face conflict “head-on,” especially when the doctrine of God is perverted. After all, Christians are taught to be aware and note those who teach falsely, who walk disorderly and “those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine” (Matt. 7:15; 2 Thess. 3:6; Tit. 3:10; Rom. 16:17). But this is not an attempt to address the division that develops over doctrinal differences. There’s another aspect to consider and that is when differing and conflicting personalities among God’s people result in division and bitterness. Many are failing to realize that when this is allowed to happen, there is a total disregard for God’s instructions concerning love and unity among his children. His word tells us, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessinglife forevermore” (Psa. 133).
People are going to differ in their views and opinions, and people are going to differ in their personalities and dispositions as well. That will never change as long as man exists on this earth! Unfortunately, much of the division among brethren over the past 25 years is attributed to personality clashes. Some churches have begun in various parts of the country as a result of people not willing to work through their personality differences. What a disturbing message we, as Christians, send out to a lost and dying world when we allow such behavior to divide us! Could it be that those who choose to divide themselves for such a reason are as much a part of a lost and dying world? God’s word reveals, “If someone says, `I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar…” (1 Jn. 4:20). Liars are mentioned with the lost and wicked of this world in Revelation 21:8, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
A differing personality, in and of itself, does not make for a “bad” per-son! Webster defines the word “personality,” “The distinctive qualities and traits of an individual.” Our family of five consists of five individuals with five different and unique personalities. We don’t always see “eye-to-eye.” At times, our various personalities conflict with one an-other, but we don’t “quit one another” or go off in a “huff ” never to be seen or heard from again. To keep our family together, we have to work through those differences. The same is true among God’s family here on earth. Though we have varying personalities in the church, that doesn’t make for “bad” people. It does, how-ever, if we elect to divide ourselves without ever attempting to resolve our differences.
It’s startling to see a person go to such great lengths to maintain his relationships with the various personalities of worldly people in the work place, and then makes little or no attempt toward preserving his relationship with a brother or sister in the Lord just because their personalities differ. He knows that if he wants to retain his employment, he must work at his relations with others! This same person may realize that his personality clashes with that of his wife and will seek counseling from someone in the world ($$) to improve his relationship with his wife. Again, he knows he must if he has hopes of keeping his marriage together. This needs to be the same attitude when it comes to God’s family! But few, very few, will display the same attitude. It just goes to show that many are more concerned with placing their earthly relationships “high and above” the most important and wonderful relationship ever made possible that of being in God’s family, the church. It certainly indicates where one has placed his priorities. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).
Why do differing personalities di-vide brethren? This writer believes that pride in one’s heart is one of the main reasons for the disunion among saints and until that one “swallows his pride,” the separation will continue. Those described in the Bible who had a problem with pride were always brought down (Dan. 5:18-22; Acts 12:20-23). Pride is “arrogance, egotism, haughtiness, disdain, vain-glory, vanity, conceit.” Someone has said, “It is an absorbing sense of one’s own greatness.” From the book of Proverbs, we find that pride leads to contention (13:10), strife (28:25), wrath (21:24), and sinful speech (14:3). When we consider the fruits of pride, we can understand why God considers it an abomination. “Every-one who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (Prov. 16:5). Pride is hated by God! A proud look is included in the list of seven things which are an abomination to God (Prov. 6:16,17). Pride is sin! “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin” (Prov. 21:4). Pride “is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
There’s no question about it, God’s word tells us that we must live at peace among brethren if we intend to see the Lord and be in heaven some-day. The Bible says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peace-ably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). “Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). This “all men” includes brothers and sisters in the Lord. This “all men” includes you and me!
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 21, p. 14-15
November 3, 1994