This past Sunday, more than two dozen police units had to respond to a brawl. Not a drunken Saturday night brawl like you might expect to hear, but rather a Sunday afternoon brawl at a church building.
Members of Greater New Zion Baptist Church in Fletcher, NC came to blows Sunday as they argued over whether or not to reinstate their pastor, who had been removed after being accused of having an ongoing affair. Some members argued that the charges had been made up by others who felt the pastor was too old to be their pastor any longer.
What the church ultimately decides to do about the pastor remains to be seen and is their own business. A few things can be said about this fight, and what led up to it, however.
1. Someone did not follow what Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
If, and only if, this charge was true, the person who knew it needed to go to the pastor first, then take one or two others (best would be Elders), and then tell it to the church if he refuses to hear it from them. All too often, what happens today is that the first two steps are skipped. In fact, what usually happens is that the entire process is skipped and the media is alerted. letting the world make the decisions. This makes it much more difficult both for the person who needs to repent and for the one who was wronged.
2. Someone is not following what Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The love Jesus has is selfless, causing him to lay down his life for others. He called upon his followers to have the same love for one another. He also said this is how others will know who are really his followers – by their love for one another – how does this fighting differ from a bar fight?
3. Someone is not following the definition of love as given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
One who was not present does not know what evidence there may be as to this alleged affair, but if there is no hard evidence, it would appear the members’ love thinks evil and does not believe or hope all things. The idea behind those words is that if someone loves, he will think the best about that person he loves. It would appear that the love shown by these church members who were fighting behaves rudely, seeks its own, and is easily provoked to anger. And as a result – this so-called love did in fact fail.
Every preacher can tell stories of church meetings that looked like they might become violent. Fortunately, in most cases the members remember who they are (or should be) and calm down. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul expressed shock that members of the Corinthian church did not seem to be able to settle their disputes with one another without going to a worldly court: “6:6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!” Fighting in the church is not a good way to “shine your light before others”.