By Matt Kennedy, Stand Firm.
Every so often when the fight over sexuality heats up, some well meaning Christian pastor or leader will pen an article decrying the dissention. Often these objections appeal to our need to reach the lost. What will people in the world think when they see the church tearing itself apart? Would not our strength be better spent engaging in activities and conversations that display the love of Christ? When Christians fight and divide, non-Christian seekers are turned off and their suspicions about the church are confirmed.
This species of objection is grounded in a number of incorrect assumptions about evangelism, the mission of the church and its leaders, and how God uses conflict. Here are five reasons doctrinal conflict is a good thing and not to be avoided:
First is the example of Jesus and the apostles. Jesus not only engaged in conflict with his detractors, he sought it out. He purposefully and publicly broke extra biblical Sabbath traditions, healing the sick, engaging in what the Pharisees incorrectly considered“work”, and encouraging others to do so. He entered the homes of people considered irredeemable. He pronounced judgment on those cities that rejected him. He told parables, preached sermons, and hurled diatribes directly and explicitly aimed against the religious who denied his claims to be God and messiah, in their presence. It is not difficult to see why people wanted him dead. We see the same boldness in the ministry of the apostles in the book of Acts and in their writings. They convict, rebuke, and condemn false teachers and enemies of the cross. They correct errors in the churches they plant and even amongst themselves. In fact, virtually every New Testament letter involves the author taking part in some kind of church conflict. When apostolic teaching is at stake, there are no admonitions to make peace for the sake of reaching the lost. Instead, the New Testament authors dive into theological conflicts head first, contending for the truth.
Second, conflict clarifies the truth. Jesus and the apostles were eager to participate in theological conflict because they taught that God’s word is the means by which the Spirit brings sinners to repentance and faith (Mark 4, Rom 10:17, James 1:18), sustains disciples in the faith (John 17:17), cleanses the church of false disciples (Galatians 1:6-9, 2 John 7-11, Acts 17:11) and deadly error (2 Peter 1:19, Titus 1:9) .