Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten Causes of Conflict

Starting on December 16 I wrote several posts about church conflicts and asked folks to comment on it by adding their own insights. I received a few comments, which I love because we who blog can get pretty lonely if we don't hear from you. One person remembered a fist fight among the members one Sunday morning and others had similar stories of deep conflict that caused trauma to them and their family members.

I have been pondering the question of why so much conflict in church groups and have some ideas. However, I am still interested in your insights. Let me begin by quoting a man well acquainted with church conflicts, St. James, the Brother of our Lord who lays out the number I. reason for Fights among Believers:

James 4:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you?

Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

2 You desire (Lust-A strong desire and longing) but do not have, so you kill.

You covet (Envy and Jealousy that others have what you desire) but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.

You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,(Desire bad ends) that you may spend what you get on your (evil)pleasures.

One Bible scholar indicates that lust is like a disease in the heart or a hole in the soul that cannot be healed or filled with human activities."So" James says, "you all are lusting strongly after things you cannot have so you attack others who do have it."

Similarly, James indicates that we covet what others have so strongly that you try to get it through wrong means. I have come to see COVETING as the core problem in life for all Christians. St. Paul mentioned it as the sin that was so powerful that he would not have known it was wrong if the Commandments had not said it was.

In America, Covetousness is seen as a good thing. As a Capitalist nations we need people to covet what they do not have so they will buy more things. Without coveting, marketing would be useless. However, let me add that even in Communist nations like Russia, China and Romania. In fact the top leaders were and are more covetous than most and attempted to control others so they had more power.

The more we covet, the more we fight. Seminaries teach their students to Covet bigger churches and to abandon a little church to go to a bigger one. We covet our neighbor's church members, his budget, his tithers and his supportive family. No wonder there are so many depressed, angry, uptight preachers and unhappy board members who Lust to have more members.

No wonder we have such anger in church meetings that end up in personal attacks, name calling and emotional outbursts. If St. Paul couldn't quit coveting, how can we? What are we to do about it? How did James suggest we overcome this deeply, inbred sinful nature? Seek God. God alone can heal us. Not God's good gifts but God's presence in and with us.

So, I nominate this as the number I. Reason for Church Conflicts. Next, Number II.


Anonymous said...

Gary a link to you from my blog. , I trust it will increase your traffic. Peace and joy to you in the new year. Rod smith

Jodee said...

I think you can list 100 reasons for conflict and ultimately they will all distill down to pride.

Gary Sweeten said...

Is Pride the core issue behind Lust and Coveting?

Anonymous said...

I think I remember reading somewhere that a prominent Church Father (Augustine maybe?) thought that rride was even a greater sin controlling factor in man's heart than lust. It's that original "you shall be like God" sin that brought down Adam and Even and also the evil one himself. So I would say pride it the worst sin.
It sort of gives birth to all others.
- Matt

Gary Sweeten said...

Matt, You and Jodee are right on, IMO.

Read more in James and see he talks about the importance of Humility: "God is opposed to the Proud but gives grace to the humble". The term PROUD comes from the Greek huoerephanos; to place oneself above others and does not honor others but only himself.

Humble people honor others and do not covet their accomplishments. Now, which comes first? Pride or coveting?

Jodee said...

Yes, I believe that pride is the CORE issue behind almost every sin... putting ourselves not only above other people but above God.

Gary Sweeten said...

I just read this comment on coveting and thought it was right on.

A neglected observation, too, is that envy is usually local. At least in the United States, most economic resentment is not directed toward billionaires or high-roller financiers—not even corrupt ones. It’s directed at the guy down the hall who got a bigger raise. It’s directed at the husband of your wife’s sister, because the brand of beer he stocks costs $3 a case more than yours, and so on. That’s another reason why a lot of people aren’t so bothered by income or wealth inequality at the macro level. Most of us don’t compare ourselves to billionaires.

Gore Vidal put it honestly: “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.”