Is it too optimistic and idealistic to actually believe that Christians can redeem their church conflicts?

Q. Now that Redeeming Church Conflicts has been published and released what are you going to do with the rest of your life?

A. This question is not one that was sent to us or actually asked…except by me! And yet it now seems as appropriate a question as any to ponder in light of the Scripture’s warning:

Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Ecclesiastes 12:12

It is usually only the latter part of that verse that is quoted when a new book is added to the endless piles of books and writings on virtually every topic imaginable, including every topic and issue raised by the Holy Scriptures. But it is the first part of that verse that is the most important and most relevant from my perspective and the real reason that lies behind why Tara and I wrote yet another book on church conflict.

Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. 

This warning, it appears to me, is the same one (or very close thereto) as that given in Revelation 22:18-19:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 

That is a terrifying pronouncement, especially for anyone who has written a book commenting on the application of Scripture to life! Have Tara and I added or taken away anything from what is taught in the Holy Scriptures by what we have written in Redeeming Church Conflicts? We pray not! Rather, what we believe and hopefully have imparted in our book was stated very eloquently and cogently by Matthew Henry back in 1710:

“The Sacred inspired writings, if we will but make use of them, are sufficient to guide us in the way of true happiness, and we need not, in pursuit of that, to fatigue ourselves with the search of other writings.

Let men write ever so many books for the conduct of human life, write till they have tired themselves with much study; they cannot give better instructions than those we have from the word of God.” (Matthew Henry, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 3, page 1051)

The whole point of the book of Ecclesiastes is to direct people who contend with the struggles of this life “under the sun” to place faith in God alone, and in His Word, and we hope and pray that is also what we have done in Redeeming Church Conflicts. Our book was written to every Christian in every Bible-believing, Christ-centered church who faces the struggles of church conflicts by pointing them to God’s Word and wisdom, not ours. The introductory note for the book of Ecclesiastes in the New Geneva Study Bible states:

“In summary, Ecclesiastes teaches how God’s elect, pilgrims in this world ‘under the sun’ (1 Peter 1:1), but also citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), should live amid the profound frustrations and tensions of the present evil age (Romans 8:18-23).”

There is such oxymoronic hypocrisy in the term “Christian conflict” and that is what church conflicts are: Christian conflict. Those who have been united “in Christ” are no longer free to be divided (Romans 12:5). They are one in Him. The implications of that truth are truly staggering. But, as Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 5:12 and 13, there are those in the church who are either not “in Christ” or who have been so deceived that they behave as though they are outsiders:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Having been called to be one “in Christ” we now have both the responsibility to obey God to “be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50) and to believe in God’s sovereign provision of the ability to actually obey. Our book, we pray, will give everyone who reads it a renewed confidence to trust and obey God from the eternal perspective He has called us to in order to bring glory to the One who said “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Some may say Tara and I have been too optimistic, too idealistic, to believe that eternal siblings “in Christ” living in the church today can actually redeem their conflicts, but if we don’t start from the vantage point of God’s ideal for his people where else would we start? Starting anywhere else would mean being satisfied with endings that are far less than what God calls his people to be, and that would mean falling under the curse of adding or taking away.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11

-Dave Edling

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About David V. Edling

Dave Edling is an experienced Christian conciliator who has worked with many conflicted churches. During his decade of service on the senior staff of Peacemaker Ministries, he participated in over 200 mediation and arbitration cases and worked with nearly twenty thousand Christians engaged in conflicts affecting churches of almost every denomination. Dave holds several graduate degrees in addition to his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University. They are: Master of Arts in Human Behavior, United States International University (now Alliant International University); Juris Doctor, California Western School of Law; Master of Arts in Religion, Westminster Seminary California; and Master of Arts in Biblical Conflict Resolution, Birmingham Theological Seminary. Dave has served as a trustee on the Board of Directors for Covenant College and Westminster Seminary California and has taught in the Doctor of Ministry programs for Reformed Theological Seminary, Mid-Western Baptist Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. In addition, Dave has been a lecturer in practical theology for several other Christian colleges and seminaries.
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