(I have been troubled for years by the conflict I have seen in the church. I am working on a Bible study for some friends currently struggling with conflict, and to train myself on this point. I will continue to edit and revise this document. If anyone who reads this is kind enough to comment with corrections or assists, it would be appreciated)

Preface

The first sight we have of the church is found in Acts 2:

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. 

Acts 2:42-47. The church is to be marked by love. Jesus commands us to love one-another, as proof that we are his disciples:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34–35. That love is a witness that the Father sent Jesus:

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

John 17:20–21. But then we look the record of the church after those first days, we see that love often does not mark their life together: 

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 

Acts 6:1. Paul began a congregation at Corinth, and then shortly thereafter he wrote to them:

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

1 Corinthians 1:10–13. He writes to the church at Galatia:

14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 

Galatians 5:14–15. The church at Philippi also suffered a conflict: 

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 

Phil. 4:2. To Rome he writes:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 

Romans 16:17. Peter writes to the churches of Asia Minor

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

1 Peter 2:1. 

The church is to be led by men who are not self-seeking:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 

1 Peter 5:1–3. This is a command likewise given by Paul. 1 Tim. 3:3. And Lord says

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 

Matthew 20:25–27. Why then does the Apostle John write this:

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 

3 John 9–10. And Paul, likewise, was attacked by the church leadership in Corinth. 2 Cor. 11:1-15.  

We are faced with this horrific contradiction. The church is to be the household of God, the family of God, the new people of God, marked by love of one-another and love to God above. We are to be people who love our enemies, and yet we so often cannot love our friends. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven, and we cling to resentments with the tenacity of crocodile.

An executive of the highest level at one of the largest corporations in the world said it pain and sorrow that fellow Christians treated him worse than the sociopaths who exist at the height of international business. 

The church is marked with extremes: Who has been more wonderful to those in need than Christians caring for the weak. And nothing is more heartbreaking that believers who bite and tear one-another. 

The Holy Spirit knowing the wickedness of heart and the sin which persists even into our life did not leave us alone; He provided to us instruction to fight this evil.