There is no place for strife in the Body of Christ. None.
This world is in a precarious place. People in the world can’t seem to agree on anything. Democrats and Republicans create gridlock as they disagree on every issue. Fringe groups have risen up standing for inequality based on income or the color of one’s skin. But that’s nothing but outspoken bigotry and racism. It creates strife of the greatest degree—and according to James 3:16, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (KJV). It’s no wonder the world seems hopeless anytime you hear the latest news. Strife is a deadly enemy as it opens the door for murder, theft, lying, rebellion, hatred, violence…and the list goes on and on.
If you’re like many in the world, you have probably found more opportunities to be offended, and to be in strife, than any other time in recent history. But the Body of Christ shouldn’t operate like the world. As believers, we should be standing together. Income inequality, racism, disagreements over denominational differences and other blatant works of the enemy that cause strife and division have no place among us. Taking a stand against the deadly enemy of strife should be one of our top priorities as followers of Jesus Christ who endeavor to lead a life worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).Stopping division and strife in our countries, communities, workplaces and churches must start with us, in our own personal lives.
Why Is Strife So Dangerous?
In Mark 3:24-25, Jesus tells us why unity is so important. He declared, “If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (KJV).
Jesus knew the toll that strife, which leads to division, takes on believers and the Body of Christ. Ultimately, the spirit of division takes men and women who are strong in the Lord—spiritual powerhouses—and returns them back to the same helpless place they were before they knew Jesus. Strife stifles the power of the Holy Spirit working, whether in an individual’s life or corporately.
The Apostle Paul encountered this issue when he visited the Corinthians…
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
In this passage, Paul is scolding the Corinthians because they had allowed strife—jealousy and quarreling—to enter their midst. And what had it done? It had turned them into “infants” again. The sinful nature does that to you. If you yield control to it, you have forfeited the power of the Holy Spirit and are living like people of the world, who are separated from Christ…without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:12).
How to Identify Strife in Your Life
Strife is easy to identify. It’s division, harsh words, complaining. It’s jealousy and envy. It represents a struggle—one person’s will against another person’s will. Arguments come out of strife. Complaining, demanding your way, divisions, harsh words, disagreements and emphasizing differences all bring about a lack of harmony. Strife is caused by insecurity and pride. Where there is strife, or lack of peace, you know the human will is in charge, not the Holy Spirit. And, from strife comes confusion and every evil work!
In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus says, “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”
Evil and sin begin in the heart. If you see that strife has taken root in your heart, the first thing you want to do is repent. Ask God to forgive you for any words or actions you’ve taken that are against His will. Replace your words with the Word of God. Ephesians 5:4 says, “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes–these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.”
You can’t speak harshly and thank God at the same time. You can’t criticize those around you, if you have a thankful attitude about them.
This approach will bring peace to any situation where there’s a temptation to tear into someone with cruel and unkind words. When someone crosses you on the job, at school, on social media or wherever, instead of verbal abuse, let your mouth be filled with praise to God. He is worthy of your praise! If you are thinking about how good God is, you can’t be talking about how bad others are.
Then, after you’ve repented, there’s a better way.
There’s a Better (and More Mature!) Way
If we keep ourselves busy with God’s ways, we will be so full of God’s love that there won’t be any room for strife. That’s the key to having the power of God show up in our lives, just like it was evident in Jesus’ life.
The way of Christ is love:
“So now I am giving you a new commandment,” Jesus said to His disciples. “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).
Our love for one another proves to the world that we are different and serves as a powerful testimony to unbelievers. If we’re a part of division and strife in our country, at home or work, or even on social media, we are not walking in God’s ways, and we are not demonstrating the love of God to others. God’s love must be overflowing in your heart for it to come out of your mouth. And, the best way to be filled with the love of God is to continually think about Him.
The way Brother Copeland renews his mind to the love of God is to study and meditate 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. He reads it in the first person like this: “I am patient and kind. I am not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. I do not demand my own way. I am not irritable, and I keep no record of being wronged. I do not rejoice about injustice but rejoice whenever the truth wins out. I never give up, never lose faith, am always hopeful and endure through every circumstance.” This is a valid confession because God is Love, and you are born of God. Therefore, you are born of Love.
The love of God in your heart and the praise of God on your lips are an unbeatable team. When an unlovely person tries to provoke you into strife, you will remember, I am not irritable. Instead of retaliating, let the praise of God come out of your mouth.
Stop Strife With Faith and Love
Additionally, walking in love is not just refraining from saying hateful things. It’s proactively speaking what is life and health to others. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” says Proverbs 18:21 (KJV). It’s putting faith and love into action when you encounter an opportunity to be personally offended, or when you see racism or division around you.
“Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” wrote James. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:17-18, NKJV).
Whenever we’re offended or see inequality, racism or division, it’s our responsibility to take a stand against strife for our household, and for our “Faith House” as the Body of Christ. This includes strife in the Body of Christ caused by denominational differences. We must stop tearing each other down with our words and do good to one another. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10, NKJV).
Do whatever it takes to stay out of strife. Let your words be full of encouragement, and let God’s love shine from you everywhere you go.
As you avoid strife, here are some things you can do:
- Identify an area of your life that moves you into feelings of strife
- When you are tempted to respond to strife, determine exactly what you will say to replace your words with God’s words of love
- Ask God to cleanse you completely from past areas of strife, and to protect you from situations that bring strife.
In conclusion, there is no place for strife in the Body of Christ, and we should individually and corporately refuse to be people who take part in it. As people called by His Name, we should take a stand against strife by living differently from people in the world. Our houses should be places of faith, without strife. Our churches should be places of faith without strife. And we should be agents bringing the light and love of God to a dark and lost world.
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