Religion has always been a touchy subject. Discussions about God, faith, and the church can spark lively and refreshing dialogue; it can also unleash anger and bitter disputes. As long as there is more than one human present in a place, conflict is possible and likely.
The early church was no exception. In Acts 15, a dispute arose from among the body of faith, on whether or not circumcision was necessary for salvation. This was a heated dispute with a great deal of passion and debate.
But, it is worth noting that it never got ugly. We do not read about folks spreading gossip and slander in the community. No one questioned anyone’s motives. They did not attack each other personally. Instead, they chose to honor one another, listen respectfully, engage with dignity, and maintain fellowship. They demonstrated a Christ-like spirit, as they resolved the issue and settled the conflict within their family of faith. Above all, they fervently sought the will of God, in this matter.
Yet, they did not seek to appease everyone. They did not take a majority vote. It appears that everyone was given a voice, but the most mature among them made the final decision. They put God’s desire before their own desires and traditions. In the end, the church stayed together and continued to grow,
As the family of faith, we can learn a great deal about handling conflict from this passage. Believers met. They talked. They listened to one another. They shared their respective positions. They deferred to the most wise and mature believers. They allowed their leaders to lead. They realized that God’s work was far more important than any of their personal wants. They made a decision that would enable them to be about the mission that they had received from their Lord. They stuck together and moved forward. That is what family does.
Conflicts will arise, but they should never define us. Christ, Scripture, the Great Commission, and the Great Commandment should always be the hinges upon which the unity of our family of faith rests.