What is one thing that can stretch parental patience to new levels of thin, drive parents to the brink of insanity, or send them to their knees in repetitive frustration? Children fighting.
Sibling fighting, or children fighting in general, seems to be the one thing universally experienced, and universally exhausting to parents. Children usually pick the tiniest microbial issue to debate over, find the smallest reason to retreat and dawn their combat apparel, and will taunt their sworn mortal enemy over absolutely nothing just to see them squirm.
As a parent, we realize that these things are just part of the process of growing up. For anyone who grew up with siblings, or close cousins, or really any place where children gather regularly, you will realize that this is very true. Little children, born into sin like all of us, must learn to traverse the mine fields of emotion, selfishness, malice, and pride–along with a myriad of other dark qualities. This must be done in order to grow into mature, law-abiding, and respectable adults. We are born without social mores, and must be guided and revamped in order to fit into our society.
But wait. What if these same children grew up but never really changed? What if they grew up and just changed the way they manifested these very qualities by wrapping them up in “adult” boxes instead? What if they grew up and in place of hitting someone in their way, they now manipulated, intimidated, or slandered them instead? What if, instead of fighting over who would use the washroom first, they now while sitting comfortably in their armchair of entitlement, made loud demands of others until they got their way? What if instead of shouting cruel names at each other, their favourite pastime became watching other people fail, so they could preen themselves with self-righteous indignation, arrogantly declaring that they “would never do that”?
And what if they were Christians?
I am the first to admit that Christ followers are no better than any other person on this planet, in fact the reason we follow Christ is because He gives us the hope that this blackness of heart, irreversibly broken by our sinful rebellion can be healed by Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf. We are Christ followers BECAUSE we are sinners, we are not Christ followers because we are not.
That said, within the family of Christ there can be an awful lot of fighting. This of course is nothing new. Paul, in his letters to the Corinthians addressed the very same issue. He wrote, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? “(1 Cor. 3:1-3) Later he says “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:10 -13)
Paul was dealing with a fleshly church, infantile in their thinking—arguing, dividing and missing Christ completely as a result. In 2 Corinthians Paul further defines the possible problem in the Church of Corinth. “… I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder”(2 Cor. 12:20). This list is telling… and familiar. It reminds me of my children fighting. It reminds me of the world and all its backbiting and quarrels over everything, but it should not remind me of the body of Christ, nor even more personally, it should not remind me of me…but it sometimes does.
God reminded His church over and over again in the New Testament not to quarrel and fight. (1 Tim. 2:8, 2. Tim. 23 – 26, Rom. 16:17, Jude 1 :18-19, 1 Thess. 12-15, etc,) Also, Proverbs like “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling” (20:3) remind us that this type of fighting is foolishness, and it “only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim. 2:14).
So what are we to do? First things first. We must stop making excuses for ourselves. We must stop blaming other people and start asking the Lord to open our own blind eyes. Then we must repent. We must admit that we fall short, and that it is easier to divide than to unify. We recognize that when we are divisive we are not in the Spirit but acting only in our sinful flesh.
Then, “let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building” (Rom.4:19), and aim for restoration, comforting one another, agreeing with one another, living in peace; so that God of love and peace will be with us (2 Cor. 13:11). We are called to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Not looking to only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil.2:1-4). God asks us to dress for this battle against the flesh and to put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if we have a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven us, so we also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, to which indeed we were called in one body (Col. 3:12b-15). “And finally “, as Paul writes to the Ephesians, he “urges us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1b-4).
None of these things are possible outside of Christ. None of these things have their source in a fleshly nature. Even if we never voice it, division can sneak into a heart in an instant, creating distance and embitterment, dividing the body of Christ and tarnishing the name to which our very lives are forfeit. Christ told us that “by this all people will know that you are My disciples, if we have love for one another”(John 13:35). If we cannot even love our brothers and sisters, whether they share a home, a church building, or a planet, what does that say about our walk with Christ? What does it say to the world around us? How can we possibly love our enemies if we fail to first love the body of Christ? For “this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As we have heard from the beginning, His command is that we walk in love.” (2 John 1:6)
It is time for us adults to grow up. It is time for the church to stop all the fighting and division. It is time for the bride of Christ to move together, in unity, in love, and in purpose, and in truth through the united power of the Holy Spirit. It is time for me, and it is time for you, to do our part by submitting fully to our Saviour.
“Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16) starts right now. It starts within each one of us.
Sunder. Definition = split apart Synonyms = divide, split, separate, sever