Do Not Quarrel among Brothers
We live in a society in which there are many conflicts. Employers against employees. Town council members against citizens Indigenous people against immigrants. The problem is quite often that people prefer to emphasize differences instead of trying to find solutions. Many prefer to work with the conflict model rather than the harmony model. The media is also often keen to push the contradictions to extremes. In interviews people are challenged to say things they were not planning to say and so put these differences to the forefront where they end up becoming real conflicts. Thus, we are dealing with a society where there are conflicts continuously. The one is not even resolved before the next one is already showing up.
In the Church
Also in the church conflicts happen from time to time. This will happen wherever people live together, and cannot be prevented. Of course, there may be differences of opinion about all kinds of things that are secondary. But the danger is – because of the influences from society – that also in the church, differences of opinion are increasingly pushed to extremes and things are done according to the conflict model rather than the harmony model. Then brothers and sisters in the congregation, or council members at a meeting, sometimes irreconcilably oppose each other. Satan, looking for conflicts, will promote this as much as possible
Sometimes people stick so closely to their point of view that all deliberations are doomed to fail. On other occasions people are being set up against one another because of suspicions or pushing of viewpoints. I know that this has been the case throughout history, but I cannot get away from the impression that as a result of the developments in society there is also a hardening in conflict situations in the church. In my opinion, it often happens that matters of secondary importance are elevated to matters of principle, so that you do not have to give up anything from your point of view. This pushes things to extremes, and this more or less conscious promotion of conflict is a bad thing.
We are warned in the Bible against that attitude of promoting conflict. Proverbs says that strife between brothers is an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 6:16b). The King James Version says that the Lord hates sowing discord among brothers. This proverb is a type of proverb where the numbers increase. These type of proverbs are meant to attract attention. First the lower number is mentioned and after that the higher number, because through the increase of numbers the author wants to keep the attention of the listener.
Solomon says the following in Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” Then he mentions seven things God loathes. Seven things the LORD really hates. Those seven things are mentioned via body parts. These are all things related to insincerity. In the first place: haughty eyes. In the second place: a lying tongue (untruthful behaviour). Thirdly: hands that shed innocent blood. Fourthly: a heart that devises wicked plans. In the fifth place: feet that make haste to run to evil. In the sixth place: a false witness who breathes out lies.
After these six things full of insincerity comes a seventh, and worst: one who sows discord among brothers .Sowing discord among people who belong together. This is the pinnacle of insincerity. It is, according to this proverb, not less in God’s eyes than shedding innocent blood.
Why So Bad?
Why does the Lord God take this so seriously? Because brothers belong together. Not because they chose to be together or liked each other. No, God gives them to each other. In daily life you may choose friends yourself. You look for people who you are comfortable with because of their character or background. People you can associate with in a pleasant way. You choose friends because you like to be together and stay in contact with them. But brothers and sisters you get because you have the same parents. You cannot do anything about it. This is also the way it is with brothers and sisters in the faith and in the church community. You do not look for them yourself, but you get them. God gives brothers and sisters to each other because of the reconciling work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He establishes the connection. That means, therefore, that to sow discord among brothers is to destroy God’s work.
Sowing discord is casting suspicion on the brothers God has given you, because they think differently about certain things. It is setting up brothers against each other and undermining trust and promoting the formation of cliques. Sowing discord means not taking the other person seriously, because you declare your personal opinion to be the only norm that counts.
How to Look for a Way?
Brotherhood does not mean that you have to agree with each other in everything. That would be a lack of diversity. It also does not mean that you have to approve of everything everybody says or does. It is possible that there are things you cannot accept on the ground of God’s word and our love for him. But then these differences has to be discussed in a spiritual way. Not through the conflict model and not by sowing discord, but according to Philippians 2:3, which says, “Count others more significant than yourselves.” That is the biblical basis for a brotherly atmosphere and a brotherly association. And this brotherly atmosphere does not have to compromise in any way honesty and clarity in the discussion of the issues.
Sowing disputes and the conflict model are ultimately a form of haughtiness. You reject and condemn the other party. And by speaking about him in a negative way, you think yourself better than the person you have rejected. The eye-opener from the writer of Proverbs is meant to fight against the sin of haughtiness that by nature lives in all of us, and to see the other as more significant than yourself. To do this, our hands will full for our whole life.
It is especially John – the apostle of love – who calls us to practice brotherly love. He says, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). He means: from the first moment the gospel of Jesus Christ went into the world, love for the other has been the characteristic of faith. Think also about what John says regarding the washing of feet. In his first letter he warns us about Cain who murdered his brother (1 John 3:12). That is where we end up if brotherly love is not practiced. That is why he encourages his readers to give hands and feet to brotherly love. He says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). To go from death to life is to be born again. It is to have become a new person through the conciliatory work of the Lord Jesus Christ. New people are being recognized by the way they love the brothers. Let it become evident through this that we are in the world, but not of the world.
This article was translated by Harry Janssen.