One of the by-products of friction is heat: when two or more objects rub against each other, the temperature increases. Likewise, when you put sinful people together—even in the church, where sin no longer reigns but still remains—there is bound to be friction. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. We’re not perfectly created bricks that are all beautifully positioned to fit together. We’re rough, imperfect people. But equally, we must not allow friction to distract us from our ultimate focus.
Friction will not disappear by being ignored; instead, it is overcome as we focus on Christ and value what He values for the body of believers: priorities like hospitality, bearing one another’s burdens, mutual encouragement, prayer, and giving. These values do not push us to ask “What can the body of Christ do for me?” but “What can I do for the body of Christ?” Only when we work from that perspective will our self-pity, aggravations, and concerns begin to melt away.
While friction should be expected, then, it should not be tolerated. As believers, we should show evidence of humble, repentant hearts. When we don’t, it is right for others in the church to help us and, if necessary, lovingly to challenge and discipline us. Church leaders during the Reformation said that for a church to be a true church, there had to be the preaching of God’s word, the celebration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline.
Tolerating unrepentant divisiveness in a church not only allows the heat caused by friction to go unchecked but can lead to destruction. We wouldn’t let someone sit at our dining-room tables and destroy our families because they had a bad attitude; yet how easy it is to tolerate friction and division in the church for the sake of appearing to be a nice, cozy place. But we must take the harder path. The future of the church depends on it.
Friction will come. We will mess up. So we are going to need to bear with one another in love. We are going to have to be patient toward each other. We are going to need to “make every effort” to maintain the unity the Spirit brings us into when He brings us into God’s family by faith (Ephesians 4:3, NIV). In other words, we are going to need to be Christlike, for it is His selfless agape love that shows us how to sacrificially love one another and overcome conflict. Unity is a precious gift, and therefore friction needs to be addressed—gently and patiently, but addressed nonetheless. Perhaps there is someone you need to speak with today. Perhaps today there is someone you need to show repentance to, or offer forgiveness to, or walk alongside to help them resolve their friction with another church member.
Wisdom from Above
13Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
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