Vol. 6, No. 2
~ Page 15 ~
"It is a shame the church has problems." This saying is echoed throughout the brotherhood of the Lord's church. The pressing thought is that God's cleansed people should so put sin behind them that they overcome difficulties before they happen. Members think it. Non-members trumpet it -- often as an excuse for disobedience. It is, indeed, a shame that the church has problems. A shame at least equal, though, is the discouraged surprise many feel when contemplating the fact.
Church difficulties should never be defended, but perhaps they can be viewed in a little different light. While the design of the Lord's church is perfect beyond doubt, the inclusion of fallible humans opens the door for sinful potential. Christians will stumble (1 John 1:7-9). Sin affects people, and not just oneself: "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself" (Romans 14:7). (Spiritually speaking, the references to a "victimless crime" are even more absurd than in the physical world.) Put those two concepts together with the command of Christians to continually assemble together (Hebrews 10:25), and one has an inevitable, logical conclusion: Christians will sin, and thereby cause pain to other Christians. It is a shame, but it should not be surprising.
The Lord was not surprised by it. In his omniscience, he even provided a means of dealing with offenses between individuals (Matthew 18:15-18). Ah. And, it is therein that the Lord separated his people from all other organizations of the world.
While we must admit problems in the church, we shall not admit that this makes the church just like human institutions. The church has its problems, but, unlike human organizations, they have a divinely imposed means of properly dealing with them. If followed, the way provides for reconciliation and peace.
But, if is a big word. Christians often sin in not following the steps to reconciliation of a brother. Nevertheless, one is inclined to wonder how many problems have stayed under control, and not escalated to verbal feuds or even physical violence because of the restraining principles of New Testament teaching. How many times has one been offended and held his tongue, his fist or both, because he remembered the glorious teachings of turning the other cheek, and treating others the way one would want to be treated (Matthew 5:39; 7:12)? How many times have godly elders worked for reconciliation among fragmented parties in congregations? This author's contention is that the times would be countless. Think, then, of what would have occurred had not Christ's principles been in place. Why would elders have cared? Why would people not retaliate with the old "eye for an eye" vengeance? There would be nothing to restrain.
Further, it must be conceded that manmade businesses, societies, clubs and the like have instituted similar policies of effectively dealing with grievances. Still, here are some more contentions of the author: That those policies are offshoots in some way of Christian principles and that those policies work so much better when the employees or members apply Christian principles in their lives. In either case, the glory goes back to God. When he established his church, he did so with the idea of salvation, and with the consequence of making people better citizens and comrades on earth -- even toward friends and associates outside the church. The point is: God taught his people how to deal with problems.
Please note this disclaimer against misunderstanding: Brethren should work diligently to prevent problems in the church. That ounce is always better than the cure's pound. When problems arise, however, brethren should have a couple of reactions: (1) Work according to Christ's way to solve the problem, and (2) Don't get too down on the fallibility of the human beings in the church. (For one thing, the accuser is also a fallible person.) Problems in Christ's church will simply be. What separates Christians from the rest of the world in this regard is not a hands-in-the-air, give-up attitude, but a diligent dedication to pursue resolution according to God's revealed Word. That is one facet that helps make the church greater than any other body on earth.