The History Channel recently devoted a mini-series to the subject. I nearly fell out of my chair when it depicted both families coming out of a meetinghouse with “TUG CREEK CHURCH OF CHRIST” painted over the front door. I think that may be the most shameful thing about the whole affair, and the worst publicity the church ever received. Here were people who claimed to be New Testament Christians, yet who not only argued with one another for years, but fought and killed each other as well.
I suppose I have always considered James’ admonition in chapter 4 to be a hyperbole. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. Surely Christians do not act that way. But here is historical proof that they do.
The thing we must realize is this: we are no better when we argue with one another, when we divide over things that do not matter, and when we refuse to speak or even sit on the same side of the meetinghouse because of our selfish grievances. No, we do not kill, but we do the same damage to the gospel, and thus to the Lord.
Paul appealed to the Corinthians by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that there should be no divisions among them. That means “by Christ’s’ authority,” and with reverence for him. It means in gratitude for the mercy his name has brought us. It means if we have any regard for Christ at all, then nothing should divide us but a concern for truth. Jesus himself said that our unity would testify to the world that God had truly sent him. What does it say about us when we think our own petty concerns are more important than those things?
Our concern for unity should be utmost. Pursue peace, Paul said in Rom 14:19. Don’t just be satisfied if it happens to come along. Be eager to keep the peace, he exhorted in Eph 4:3. If that isn’t enough motivation consider this—God won’t be with us if we do not live in peace with one another, 2 Cor 13:11.
Peace doesn’t just mean we aren’t fighting and killing one another. It means we are of “the same mind and the same spirit,” 1 Cor 1:10. It means we count the other more important than ourselves, Phil 2:3. It means we seek not to please ourselves, but our neighbor, For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me," Rom 15:3. It means we are willing to be wronged rather than demean the name of Christ to the world, 1 Cor 6:7.
A feud among the Lord’s people is nothing to be proud of. We can think back to that famous feud, of the many lives lost, and shake our heads with dismay. Now think of the souls lost too. Some of those people may not have died physically during those years, but far more died spiritually. It is one example of our forbears that we do not want to follow.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:5-7