My oldest daughter, now eighteen years old, has always been one of the most amazing people I know. She currently works 28 hours a week, goes to college full time, and serves the Lord a great many hours a week as well. She honestly outworks and out hustles many adults I know. But it is usually her precocious brain that provides me the most smiles during the course of the day.
My perpetually straight A daughter, high school salutatorian, started showing her brilliance very young. She was talking in full sentences at 14 months old, and using words like “contemplating,” properly and in context, as a toddler. But it was her “theological prowess” at age three that put us in stitches, and to this day makes me smile.
I suppose most everyone in the Bible belt, and even in many regions beyond, is familiar with the “hand church” game that adults play with tiny children; “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors, and there are the people!”
A mental picture is now forming in your mind of a person with their six back fingers intertwined and folded in, both index fingers pointing skyward as a steeple, and both thumbs placed together up front as the doors. The thumbs are then moved, revealing the six fingertips inside wiggling against each other, the “people” of the church.
When Karis was three, her nana showed her that, and she was enthralled. But when her nana “opened the doors” to show the wiggling people banging up against each other, her little face wrinkled up and she said, “Why are they fighting?”
It is hard to keep a straight face at a moment like that.
And to this day it thrills me that she asked that question. To her, it was inconceivable that church people would not always get along in perfect harmony. She knew nothing of church people shouting at each other, or giving the cold shoulder, or acting like enemies. Naturally, as she has grown, she has not always seen such perfection. But even as a child she had an understanding that peace and fellowship was to be expected among God’s people.
I often wonder how she or my other children would have turned out if they had observed the stereotypical church full of hatred, anger, arguments, and power struggles. I suspect they would have ended up jaded like so many other kids who grew up in that kind of a church environment.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul said, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” He wrote to two warring women in Philippians 4:2 and said, “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” He told the Ephesian church they were to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Paul knew that church battles ruin people and testimonies. He was intent, therefore, on people behaving in such a way toward each other that the very thought of such things was a surprising thought, just as my girl was surprised at those little “fighting fingers.”
Church people are people. Human beings. They come complete with opinions, preferences, likes and dislikes. But those of them who are actually saved also come complete with the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, and therefore have the capacity to behave as they should, including behaving in love one toward another. And it is essential that they do so.
Pure Biblical doctrine can never be compromised. What the Bible says, rightly divided and in context, is law to the church and the Christian. But through my nearly five decades of church experience I have found that doctrine is rarely the cause of church fights, and personalities are usually at the root of the problem. Do remember, though, that every time you allow your personality clashes to land in the sanctuary, there will be a small, impressionable child somewhere looking up in shock at an adult and saying, “Why are they fighting?’
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org