With four young children at home, I am constantly mediating conflicts. Inevitably, when someone comes to me, it is everyone’s fault except their own.
“That is mine!”
“It was his fault!”
“But what about me?”
Sometimes one of them actually has been wronged, but deeper concern is always the attitude of their hearts. Their insistence on their own goodness, their certainty that they are right, or their interest in pleasing only themselves prevents them from moving toward each other with love.
There will always be conflict in our lives, but the Bible consistently shows us that it is possible to have conversation without sin — to disagree without division. Right now we are facing unexpected change, difficult choices, and conflicting narratives.
Should we wear masks or not?
What should school look like in the fall?
How can we move forward as a country?
As a church?
These questions are important and ongoing conversations are required. Everyone is invested and most people have opinions, but passionate beliefs aren’t the true creator of division.
Instead, the deadly poison of pride is what threatens our unity as believers. Pride makes everything about me. I become the most important person in the room, losing sight of who I am in relation to both God and others. In our pride, we consider ourselves more important than others and refuse to acknowledge our shortcomings, which leads to mistrust and separation. In our certainty that our conclusions are best, we place our opinions, rights, and affiliations ahead of our love and unity as disciples of Jesus.
For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
In the final moments before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and then for “those who will believe,” which includes all of us who have been a part of the church throughout history. This prayer, for future believers, is centered upon unity with God and each other.
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
– John 17:22-23
Our unity has a purpose. Jesus prays that we would be one so that the world will believe that the Father sent Jesus and loves them even as he loves his Son — a declaration to the world of the truth of the gospel. Our unity can only be found in Christ, and then our unity leads others to Christ.
Jesus, in whom and through whom all things were created, humbled himself even unto death. His humility overcame the pride of Adam and allows us to be united to God.
Pride always leads to separation, but humility leads to unity.
In fact, the first step in coming to faith is repentance, requiring a rejection of pride and a posture of humility. In order to be reconciled to God, we have to admit that we cannot save ourselves — that we are sinners who disobey God and hurt the people around us. When we admit our faults and lay them at the feet of Christ, we completely rely on the grace of God. This humility leads to unity with God, unity with others, and is an invitation to others to embrace the love of Christ.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but, in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
– Philippians 2:1-3
My children will continue to have conflicts.
The church is no different.
There will always be conflicting opinions, priorities, and passions, but these differences don’t have to divide us.
Loving each other is more important than winning any argument. Our identity in Christ trumps every other issue we face as a church family. We belong to Christ. As his people, we should emulate his example by becoming tenderhearted, living with humility, and valuing others above ourselves. This will lead to love and unity instead of pride and dissension.
As the family of God, but still a group of human beings, we will inevitably have disagreements. But if we commit to an attitude of humility, we can remain united together in Christ.