Check your bible. The Lord’s church in first-century Rome certainly had its challenges. So did the church in Corinth – there’s were colossal, widespread, and very well-documented in God’s eternal record. The first-century congregations of Christ’s church in the Galatian region were certainly shown to have grappled with their fair share of struggles. The Ephesian, Philippian, and Colossian congregations were surely not without their conflicts either. Neither were the congregations of Thessalonica, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, or Laodicea without their problems, conflicts, or issues. In fact, it is somewhere between extremely difficult and downright impossible to even peripherally read through the majority of some of those epistles and not come to the conclusion that the main reason they were written in the first place, was to address and correct some of the multitudinous problems in those congregations.
And even in first-century congregations of the Lord’s church which were not necessarily mentioned in the Scriptures, you can be sure that they certainly endured and had to deal with a plethora of seemingly impossible internal problems as well. Why? Because the church is the people. And wherever you have people seeking to work together in close proximity, you can count on having, and having to deal with, problems – even, and sometimes especially, in the church.
Several congregations that I am currently, personally (even if only peripherally) acquainted with through some of its members whom I know and love, either has had, or seems to be having, some measure of “people-problems” over the past few months. This is nothing new. This is to be expected. This is what will eventually, inevitably happen, anywhere and everywhere you have a plethora of imperfect people seeking to work so closely together. Even amongst some of Jesus’ closest and most spiritually intimate first-century disciples, they couldn’t always get along, and therefore had to learn to endure, resolve, and overcome some pretty nasty pride and personality problems (Matt. 20:20-28; Mk. 9:33-37, 10:32-45; Lk. 9:46-48, 22:24-27; Jn. 21:20-22; Acts 15:36-40; Phil. 4:2-3; Jms. 3:2-5:9)! And the reason is: because the church is the people. And wherever you have people seeking to pull together over a lengthy period of time, you can absolutely count on encountering, and having to endure and deal with, some sort of “people-problems” – even in the church. And sometimes, especially in the church. And here’s how and why…
Whenever one repents and is baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38-41), they are to bury the old man of sin there and rise to walk in newness of life (Ro. 6:1-11). However, the old man of sin doesn’t always stay dead, down, and drowned. He, with all of his ego-driven, pride-powered, selfish ambition and self-promoting sin won’t stay down without a constant and hard-fought daily fight to keep him there. Don’t think so? Then why did the once-humble sister servant-saints of Philippians 4:2-3 still have a problem? Also, please reconsider Colossians 3 if you would. It was written to those who were already Christians (Col. 1:2, 2:11-15, 3:1-4). And yet, what does the apostle Paul tell his Colossian brethren by divine inspiration in verses 5-17? ‘You’ve got to keep putting the old, sinful, selfish, petty and prideful man of sin to death!’ In other words, it is a continual, everyday, and ongoing process (2 Ptr. 1:1-11)! It is an everyday battle we all must personally fight (Lk. 9:23-25; Ro. 7:14-24; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:12-14).
But sometimes we slip up, and the old man of sin slips out. Sometimes, someone will push just the right button, at just the wrong time, and before we can even begin to take the proper precautions, he shifts his ‘wait,’ sheds his shackles, and shoves his way past the ivory bars that have held him back and in check for so long. And when he breaks free, it all breaks loose. Feelings get hurt; friendships get sunk; relationships are severed; and reputations are ruined. And in some of the more tragic scenarios entire congregations can get ripped apart… while under the withering onslaught of such satanic and sinful immaturity and criticality, many blood-bought and priceless eternal souls can be lost forever, becoming spiritual casualties as a result of getting caught in the crippling, congregational crossfire of such needless warfare.
But while the church is the people; and where you have people you have problems; Jesus has and is the answer, having not changed in all the centuries since He was here. Whenever such personality and pride-driven conflicts erupt, they are the same types of “teachable moments” that Jesus’ disciples were continually given the opportunity to learn godly wisdom from (Matt. 20:20-28; Jms. 1:2-5) as are we. The Great Physician’s all-soothing, all-healing balm of Gilead (Jer. 8:22) can be abundantly found and applied, from God’s divinely-inspired prescriptions for all such certain-to-happen problems, in places like: Jn. 13; Rom. 12-16; 1 Cor. 1-3, 8, 12-13; Gal. 5-6; Eph. 4-6; Phil. 2-4; Col. 3; 1st Thess. 2-3 and other chapters, as well as entire books like James and 1st John.
Yes, the church is the people. And yes, wherever you have people, you will inevitably have problems – in the world or in the church. But the difference in the church, is that we have the divinely-inspired and all-powerful antidote and cure for all such issues directly at our fingertips! This, in the form of the eternal written word and wisdom of the almighty God of peace Himself! What a gift! May His people diligently learn, apply, and utilize it on a daily basis! …For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another… Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God (Rom. 14:17-19, 15:5-7).