Q: “A huge conflict has been going on in our church for many months over the education of children. Those who home-school their children believe the church should be investing more resources (money and time and effort) in support of home-school programs and activities that will help parents provide greater variety of experiences for their children. Those who don’t home-school and have their children in either public school or Christian school don’t agree. They believe the church should be the church and not favoring one choice of education over another by using church funds to favor one group over another. Both sides have tried to recruit supporters to their position, even among us who don’t have children in school any longer. How should I respond when being asked to take a side in this messy situation?”
A: Your question is a good one: “How should I respond when being asked to take a side?” This is a question of process. Jesus was asked a similar question in Luke 12:13-15 when one brother asked Jesus to tell his brother to share the inheritance with him. Jesus saw through the apparent legitimate request by discerning what the real heart motivation of the one making the demand was (selfishness and greed). While we can never possess the ability to see the heart of another the way Jesus was able, we can practice wise discernment by asking those making demands on us appropriate questions that may reveal their motivation and intent.
When being “recruited” by either “side” to this controversy you could ask questions like: (1) “What do you desire the church to do? Is your desire for your favored outcome leading you into a James 4:1-3 situation that may contribute to conflict?” (2) “You know I don’t have children in school. Why do you feel you need my support?” (3) “What are you doing to understand better the interests and concerns of the parents on the other side of this question? How are you seeking to apply and live out Philippians 2:1-5 in this situation?” (4) “What are you and those who agree with you doing to ‘make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3)’ in the church while you search for a reasonable solution?” (5) “What are you doing to protect your children from the damage this controversy could have on them and the relationships they have with other children in our church?” Questions like this will show a larger concern for your fellow church members far beyond becoming entangled in the substance of their crusade by choosing a side. You will be reminding them of the importance of placing the priority God has for peaceful relationships among his eternal children ahead of personal agendas concerning secondary matters.