It should be no surprise to you that a lot of Paul’s NT letters to the churches addressed problems, issues, conflicts and confusion. Romans chapter 14 is an example where there was controversy over holy days and food. It seems strange to us in 2018 that these two topics would cause controversy! Paul was never one to ignore issues in the church. Every church has issues! (And that’s because the church is people, and people have issues.) The sooner a Church can honestly address those issues, the healthier it will be. When a church is unhealthy, underlying problems typically surface as unresolved conflict. When a church is unhealthy, that also reveals that leadership is unhealthy. I’m talking about spiritual health and emotional health. Conflict arises when spiritually unhealthy – and emotionally immature – believers don’t know how to resolve differences. You can quote scripture and attend all kinds of Bible studies, and still remain spiritually unhealthy and emotionally immature. That will eventually come out in conflict and controversy over what I will call petty issues.
If Paul was writing to us today, he would have written about our more contemporary, cultural issues that could divide a congregation and make for controversy and conflict. Things like… presidential politics… acceptable clothing (like how short or long a dress should be or shorts vs pants)… here’s good one: tattoos… length of hair (an issue more in the 60’s)… style of worship music (worship wars of the 80’s)… color of carpet (the classic controversy)… whether people can bring coffee or pastries into the sanctuary… whether it’s okay to raise your hands in worship or not… whether to dance unto the Lord or not. You get the idea. Every church has issues that people take sides on. And let me tell you that most divisive issues are petty… and have nothing to do with proclaiming the Gospel. They almost always have to do with personal preference. Inward-focused churches have quarrels over personal preferences. And focusing on personal preferences will be at the expense of reaching lost people in the communities all around it. Even we can fall victim to inward-focused petty issues. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and our eyes outwardly focused on the harvest that is all around us.
The devil will use whatever he can to darken our thoughts, divide us, damage relationships, destroy peace, and cause us to sin. We have to be on guard against that. Not only on guard against putting a stumbling block for people’s faith, or intentionally hurting people, but careful how we respond when it happens to us personally. “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19) Pastor Randy