The Fight and the Faithful
Anyone who reads the Scriptures with any degree of honesty must immediately recognize that when Christ enlisted us into His everlasting Kingdom, He enlisted us into a spiritual battle in this fallen world. This means, of course, that our Christian lives will be fraught with trials and tribulation. Anyone who has sought to walk faithfully with the Lord for any length of time has experienced some of these difficulties already. There is one thing that you can bank on if you are seeking to faithfully fight the good fight of faith...battle wounds will abound. Sometimes those wounds come from an employer, a family member, a neighbor or a fellow classmate. Sometimes, however, these wounds come from a brother or sister in the faith. Friendly (and sometimes "not-so-friendly") fire is one of the great detriments to the progress of the Church in the world; yet, it is all too common. Why do so many in the church suffer from intramural battle wounds? Here are a few possible reasons:
1. Many fight intramurally because they are not engaged in battles with the world. Perhaps it is born out of a fear of opposition from without, but many turn against their own brethren on any number of issues because it makes them feel as though they are being faithful to defend the truth. We can make ourselves feel more faithful than we actually are if we are engaged in a battle--with whomever that battle may be waged. Many theologically conservative brothers and sisters create battles out of a desire to feel faithful. If we are constantly fighting against brothers and sisters in the faith on secondary and tertiary doctrinal issues (or personal preferences) then we might just be trying to compensate for our lack of faithfulness in propagating and defending the faith in the world.
2. Many fight intramurally because they have not kept things in their proper doctrinal perspective. To be sure, the precious truths of God in Scripture are to be propagated and defended with great zeal and vigor; however, what some call a "defense" of the faith is really just unnecessary "offense" of distinctive tribal commitments. When "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2) is not the all-determining commitment of our lives and ministries, then we will want to fight over any and every thing with which we disagree with our brethren. For instance, if I make it my aim to fight with brothers and sisters over special eschatology (i.e. millennial views) then I will inevitably wound brethren with whom I should be standing side by side with in the battle. Some doctrines are of greater importance than others in Scripture. This does not mean that we should not be seeking to convince others of the less important, yet carefully nuanced, theological positions to which we hold. Surely doing so would be part of loving the brethren and strengthening them for the battle as God has given us everything in His word to build us up in the faith.
3. Many fight intramurally because they are spiritually proud. Pride rears its ugly head in every area of our lives. The Apostle Paul taught, in no uncertain terms, that "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Cor. 8:1). The more we learn, the more useful we may be to others--or, the more dangerous we will be. Many believers have been wounded by fellow believers who use truth like a bat with which to bludgeon others, rather than as a scalpel with which to cut in order to heal. No one had as much theological knowledge as the Apostle Paul; and yet, no one was so humble as Paul. If I have a vitriolic, acerbic or contention spirit, then I have forgotten that true leadership and greatness comes from serving others. I am merely seeking to be served by others. In turn, this will only lead to further contentions and to grooming disciples after our own proud image. More reciprocal wounds are amassed when pride enters the camp of the saints.
Over the years, I have certainly failed in each and every one of the areas listed above. I have given unnecessary battle wounds to the brethren and I have been on the receiving end of intramural fire. What we need more than anything in our day is a sense of our calling as citizens of the same Kingdom under the leadership of the same King who has called us and enlisted us to love another as He has loved us. We need to learn to spot the real enemies in the church--i.e. false teachers and false sheep--as well as those enemies in the world without. As we do so, we will be eager to help one another on the battlefield rather than gun one another down.