Conflict: Crucible of Character

Paul’s problem children in Corinth probably caused him more sleepless nights than all of the other churches combined. We have no record of any other first century church with more conflict and divisions, as even a casual reading of the Corinthians correspondence will show.

They argued over who baptized them, which apostles they should follow, the importance of the human body, spiritual gifts, and the Resurrection, just to name a few. Their divisiveness had even invaded Lord’s Supper celebrations to the extent that Paul said (1 Corinthians 11:17) it would have been better for them not even to be meeting!

He goes on to explain, though, that divisions and conflict are valuable for an interesting reason (1 Corinthians 11:18, 19): “I hear there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

Paul is saying that the genuineness of faith is proven in the “heat” of divisions and conflict. That is because we can be at our best or worst when we are under pressure, and it shows in how we respond.

There was conflict in the Galatian church as well, as Paul speaks of them being in danger of biting and devouring one another (Galatians 5). The test is whether we act out with the works of the flesh (enmity, strife, fits of anger, divisions, envy) or the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control).

This does not mean that a believer can’t lose his temper and say things he later regrets. But it does give us pause when Christians don’t deal objectively with an issue, and instead make personal attacks.

There are ways of making a point that don’t involve a spear, sword, or dagger. In verbal battle, the tongue is the sharpest of weapons, and how we use it reveals what’s inside us. Matthew 12:34

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:31, 32

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