FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
RULES FOR PEACE AND UNITY
July 30, 2015
There is much conflict and disunity in Christian communities, at times leading to factions and even splits. This is a failure in love. We must remember that “the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal 5:14). If we fail to do so, there will be conflict, which will destroy not only relationships but also the body and its mission. “But if you go on hitting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal 5:15).
Peace or conflict in the body is about living by the Spirit or in the flesh. The choice is ours. “I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16). Now Paul lists 15 “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19a). Of the 15, a majority or 8 have to do with works that lead to disunity or division. These are “hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy” (Gal 5:20b-21a).
From these we can put together the following rules for peace and unity in the body, focusing on caveats.
Do not harbor ill-feelings or negative thoughts against a brother. Be considerate of the shortcomings of others (as you consider your own shortcomings as well). Be patient, tolerant, forgiving. Love unconditionally, unilaterally and sacrificially.
Do not compete with other groups, ministries or services. The only “competition” is for souls. All who serve God are on the same side. The whole body shares in the victories and “defeats” of any part of the body. We are all in this together.
Do not speak against other Christians. All are children of God, endowed with inherent dignity. Do not malign a brother or co-worker. Do not gossip.
Do not begrudge the attention given by leaders to others. Do not be jealous of the accomplishments of others. Rather, be inspired by those who do well, and aspire to do as well.
Outbursts of fury
When in disagreement, control your emotions and refrain from anger. Always speak with respect and with a desire to resolve matters peacefully.
Never think just of yourself—your preferences or points of view—but always consider the good of the body. Be willing to die to self for the larger good.
Do not dissent from the official vision and mission of the community. If you have a disagreement, you may take the matter up with the concerned leadership in a respectful way. If your preferred way is not followed, then let the matter go.
If you have a disagreement with the leadership, do not induce others to support you. Do not stir up trouble by speaking against the leadership. Do not form factions.
Do not fight each other. There is only one enemy, and it is the devil. If we fight each other and this leads to disunity or division, then we become allied with the enemy.
Do not be envious of those who seem favored or who move up the leadership ladder. Rather, rejoice with them and pray for them.
Conversely, do not look down on other Christian workers, groups or ministries. They are your allies in the spiritual war. Besides, that fledging group might be the next mighty work or wave of the Holy Spirit.
The above works of the flesh can easily lead to conflict and disunity, and as such, prevent a body from doing its work or mission, thus negatively affecting what God wants to achieve in the world. Thus they are lumped together with other serious sins such as “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, …. drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.” (Gal 5:19b-20a,21b). Paul then gives a serious warning. “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:21c).
Many Christians would readily see the wrong that is in the above list of 7 works of the flesh. But those same Christians do find themselves engaging in the other 8 works of the flesh that lead to disunity. For Paul, these are just as seriously sinful, and exclude one from the kingdom.
Let us strive to bring peace, unity and good order in our communities. “Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.” (Gal 5:26).
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