The Perils of a Disunified Church: Missed Opportunities, Missed Blessings
1 Peter 3:8-9
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.
Believers are called to be a blessing. We are to show love and compassion for fellow believers in the body of Christ. Our ability to be blessing, even to those who wrong us, emerges from unity, our common focus on the main thing: our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I would bet most Baptists beyond a certain age have experienced a time of turmoil in a church they have attended. While I don’t mean to diminish each believer’s responsibility to recognize and quell false teaching in the church, so often discord among the church body results from a focus on matters of much less spiritual consequence. If left to fester the discord can lead to fracture and the fracture to a split. All the while the surrounding community of believers and non-believers is watching. A church’s effectiveness can be destroyed during such unstable times.
More than fifteen years ago, my former church went through such turbulence. There were signs of trouble that were visible to even the occasional attendee: fretting about music style, complaints about changes in the order of worship, even grievances aired from the pulpit. Unfettered, the disharmony grew. Ministers left leaving voids in ministry; church members formed factions and took sides; and giving decreased dramatically as some members retaliated against perceived (and sometimes real) injustices. The entire community was aware of the chaos in our church and our outreach was severely damaged. Needless to say, our membership dropped as many active members escaped the drama by joining other churches and few new members joined. There is no way to know how many opportunities to lead people to Christ were missed. Eventually, the senior pastor left and started a new church, taking a good portion of the congregation with him. Ill feelings festered between those remaining with opposing points of view. We were a crippled church, limping along with a bruised congregation and an overburdened ministerial staff who worked tirelessly to hold us together.
What put us on the right track was a transitional pastor who repaired our broken church by restoring unity among the congregation. How did he do that? He redirected our focus where it needed to be - away from the distractions (those non-doctrinal traditions and practices that are subject to opinion) - toward the main thing: Jesus Christ, our one and only Lord and Savior. He also modeled the Christ-like virtues necessary to restore broken relationships: a servant heart, humility, selflessness, and good humor. Today, well over a decade later, with a current pastor who also models those virtues, my former church is growing in membership and footprint, and it is a dynamic force for Christ in the area.
If you’ve experienced a crisis in a congregation similar to what I’ve just described, Paul’s prophetic words in 1 Peter 3:8-9 could not be more illustrative. When our own opinions and best interests are in play, our sinful nature encourages us to be on the lookout for any slight, wrong, or injustice that comes our way and to give it back in spades. But when we are of one mind, unified and focused on the same thing, Jesus Christ, we can show kindness, compassion, and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ, even when we’ve been wronged.As believers, our calling is to be a blessing to others, and in so doing, we too will be blessed.
Questions To Ponder
How does this passage say we gain blessing?
How difficult is it for you to treat those that insult you with kindness? Those that are hateful to you?
Will you commit to showing kindness and love even if it is not returned?
Scripture Memory | February | Proverbs 18:2
“Fools have no interest in understanding;
they only want to air their own opinions.”