I am working with a church in deep conflict. I have a lot of experience in such issues and have come to the conclusion that we can diagnose the problem, understand how we got here and chart a path forward but it is all worthless unless the Holy Spirit shows up and bring an end to our agendas, spiritual pride and calls us to the unity that He represents.
The first verses in Ephesians 4 says it all: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Seven times we see the word "one." Yet in order for oneness to reign there needs to be humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and love. Without that there is no one. Yet that is the calling we received.
All too often it is our pride (instead of humility), harshness (instead of gentleness), impatience (instead of patience), lack of forbearance (instead of understanding) and hatred (instead of love) that fuels disunity rather than unity. Unity is only possible when we live together in humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and love. Yet that is the calling we have received according to Paul. When we live contrary to those characteristics we are not living out the calling of Jesus.
Church conflict makes me very sad. We want winners and losers when Jesus wants the One Spirit to reign over all of us. Every time we divide we declare that there is not one Lord (before whose cross we all knees), there is not one Spirit (who inhabits each of us) and there is not one God who ultimately reigns over us. We can divide but the Spirit unites. We can get our own way but it is at the expense of the plan of God. We can fight when the Lord brings peace.
Ultimately in church conflict, it is only the Spirit of God that can overcome our own agendas. I speak this Sunday to a very divided congregation. I cannot solve their problems. I can only point them toward the ONE who can. And it is in Unity that there will be peace. But for that to happen every knee must bow before the one Savior of all, Jesus Christ.