Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

God’s Guidance for Christians in Conflict: Introduction

This is one blog series I wish were completely unnecessary. I wish conflict among Christians were a relatively insignificant problem. I wish we who believe in Jesus could experience the unity he commended to us (John 17:20-24). I wish there wasn’t animosity within churches and denominations.

Church-torn-5.jpgBut all of this is, I admit, wishful thinking. The fact is that Christians often have a hard time getting along with each other. This has been true from the earliest days of the church. The Apostle Paul, who planted the church in Corinth, wrote what we call 1 Corinthians to the believers there principally because of internal conflict in the church. By the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, the tension was largely between Paul and his church.


Even in a healthy church, such as the one in Philippi, conflict was a problem. Thus Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil 4:2-3). Two prominent women in the Philippian congregation, people who had been Paul’s co-workers in ministry, were stuck in some sort of conflict such that they needed help from Paul and others to try and get along.

When I was a young Christian, I used to think that the solution to the ills of the contemporary church was to “get back to the early church.” If we could only believe and do as the first believers believed and did, we’d be on the right track. But the more I have studied the early church, the more I have come to recognize the manifold problems that plagued the first Christians. Among these, conflict played a central role.


Perhaps one of the most discouraging things about studying church history, from the first century onward, is to see just how often Christians have been mired in disputes and strife. Sometimes, in our worst moments, we have actually put to death fellow Christians whose theological convictions didn’t measure up to our personal standards. Not a happy story, not at all.

This was not what Jesus intended, to be sure. In his so-called “High Priestly Prayer” recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)


A little earlier, Jesus had said to his disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). To be sure, there are times when followers of Jesus do love each other in an exemplary way. But, far too often, such love is marred by conflict, tension, and outright meanness. And, far too often, we have not dealt with these problems in a loving way.

So, today I begin a blog series that seeks God’s guidance for Christians in conflict. This series will be relevant, I believe, to one-on-one relationships and to denominational disagreements. I will seek to discover and apply God’s revealed wisdom to conflict among Christians. My hope is that when we experience conflict in the church, we will be prepared to deal with it in a way that honors God and strengthens Christian community.

Tomorrow I’ll suggest a place where we might start when facing the problem of conflict among Christians. 

  • Ray

    Christians in conflict…that’s an oxymoron, right?

  • Paul

    I’ve always been perplexed why it is that we Christians look past Christ’s words in Luke’s Gospel:”Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Luke 12:51) And His elaboration of that in the verses that follow strongly underline His view of this world.
    The John 17 passage seems to be more eschatological in nature. That is, the unity of the believers will be achieved at the resurrection of the dead as per 1 Corinthians 15: 20-28.
    So it may be admirable to seek to minimize or avoid conflict, but to expect a unity in this world seems – well – unbiblical.

  • Eunice

    I cannot wait to learn from this topic. Being involved in a small Sunday school, conflicts arises and it cause some attendees to leave the Sunday school. Recently, there were certain Sunday school attendees has a conflict regarding Bible teaching and trying to resolve the issue in a godly manner.



  • cin

    Sad but true at some point we all find ourselves in this position
    I have been there several years and hate it but theres nothing I can do about it. I was lead by a fellow christian to participate in something that was bringing destruction to my mairrage and had to seperate from it. I pray about it and at some point I hope God does restore this relationship but I have to walk in Gods word and honor the mairrage vow. Confusion is not of God and every encounter with this person sowed only confusion in our lives. looking forward to more on this subject

  • Angela Carroll

    This is a subject that has to be addressed. I admire the courage given to you to address it. I have been in churches where I’ve seen them literally torn apart because of strife and conflict. I disagree with the comment on division because I believe it is out of context. There is definitely a dividing line between the world (flesh) and the church (spirit). Too many of us believers need to grow up into maturity and lean on the spirit and not the flesh. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one for another. This teaching is right on time.

  • Joy

    I’ve always said, ” We shoot are wounded”, sad but true.

  • Melissa

    Yesterday I literally went home threw my keys at the wall and was baste in frustration. On my way home i had ran into a woman I was helping to come to Christ. She is now a Christian at a church who split away from my church some years ago. She is being taught that my church is lukewarm amongst other things. I asked her, “in all the years you have known me, do you consider me to be lukewarm?” Her answer was not really important, though she did say she didn’t consider me to be but I was truly disturbed. My bestfriend and partner in the gospel left the church we were apart of for nine years and is now turning around to say that what I’m apart of is not a church. I was hurt because I was thinking God where are you in all this? I spend my life helping men and women to know God and sometimes with all this division I can start to doubt if I’m even saved and perhaps everyone is right and I’m wrong. I am deeply troubled but I do see how this is the devil’s intent to cause confusion so that I amongst others could give up on GOd completely. There are so many other things going on now that is rocking our world and I believe in this great country it will not be long before Christians face a more intense form of persecution. This is not the time to be fighting against each other but this is the time to pledge holy hands together and pray for the body of believers and support each other. This is hard. I really need lots of prayers and I hope whoever reads this will pray for me. I do not want religion, along with all its religious divides, I want the truth, I want Jesus!!!!!!

  • Deb

    How unfortunate it is that there is conflict among God’s people and usually over petty things. I feel most of the conflict comes because most of us are in conflict with our God or ourselves. Some of us just can’t get beyond ourselves, our feelings, our hurts, our thoughts. Jesus prayed for all of his enemies who were responsible for his crucifixion, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Any pain that another person has caused me has never compared to the pain Jesus felt on that fateful day. If we have received forgiveness of our sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection, then aren’t we also to forgive others as we have been forgiven? Our church body is in a huge conflict right now, and it could cause division. It truly is the devil’s playground and it saddens me so.

  • Mark Joesph

    Recently the Lord directed me to James Chapter 3. The untamable tongue and the difference between heavenly and earthly wisdom. The body of Christ is being seperated from the mammon of this world. James tells us that due to our self-seeking and bitter envy that confusion and all kind of evil is present. Both Peter and in Revelation we are told that there is a spirit of Eygpt and Sodom in the body. Egypt repesents the legalistic church and Sodom represents the man directed church. I recently had a dream where I heard, the Church is like “Splenda”. Splenda is a man-made chemical that took the natural substance of sugar to “make it like sugar”. The authentic substance (the Spirit of God) has been manipulated by man and “has a form of godliness, but denies it power.” Lastly the Lord took me to the book of Haggai. He was the first prophet out of the 70 years of captivity and His the Word to the people was this: “Why are My people saying it is not time to rebuild My house (Temple). Because He said “You are to busy living in your own luxurious houses and building your own lives your own way (Mark’s paraphrase). He commanded the people to go into the hills and bring back timbers to build his house. The hills are moving into the Spirit and the timbers are His nature (all the fruits of the Spirit), where grace and truth, righteousness and mercy, and a steadfast faith remains. He said, then I will will be honored by it (His house) and take pleasure in it. In Haggai He talks about how all of our offerings have been defiled by sin. How He is going to shake the heavens and the earth (mention twice) at least three times He says “Consider yor ways!”. Oh,I alsomost forgot as He led me to Joshua, after they crossed the Jordan beforetaking Jericho, God told Joshua that every man had to be circumsised because the new generation born in the wilderness were not. He then said, I have rolled away the shame of Egypt. The circumsion that He is doing now will be as He said in Ezekiel to take out the heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh. I would encourage all believers to come before His altar, lay your crowns at His feet and let Him take the flint knife (His Word) and cut out all unbelief and put in it’s place a mustard seed of faith and let Him raise it up to invade every part of your being. Let us remember, to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge, self control, to self control perserverance, to perserverance, godliness, to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love. It bears all things. From glory to glory. Lest we never forget it is for His Name alone we live and have our being. Blessing of abundace peace in your days…go and take back all the land that has been stolen, He is with us and has given us victory..go bring the spoils all back!!!!

  • patcrocker

    i hate this happening also, our church is going through this now, some have told us and our pastor lies and has removed him now, and my husband and i have to find a new place after being there quite a few years, very down about it.

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