Taking Sides in a Conflict
The war had been going on for over 100 years and neither side was willing to give up. No, this is not the infamous 100 Year War between England and France. This war is between the Bigenders (also called Big-endians) and the Littlenders. No one remembers what started the war or why they are still fighting, but the one thing they know is the other side is their enemy and needs to be destroyed.
Bigenders and Littlenders got their names from the way they crack open their eggs. Bigenders crack open their eggs on the big end and Littlenders crack open their eggs on the little end.
The war originally started a long time ago when the Emperor’s great, great grandfather was a little boy. One day while he was eating an egg for breakfast, he cut his finger when breaking it open on the larger end. His Father, the 23rd Emperor, published a law, commanding everybody to break open their eggs at the small end. The penalty for violating this law was beheading. The Lilliputs were a people who didn’t like being told what to do, so many of them defied the order. Over 11,000 people suffered death rather than break open their eggs at the small end. The persecution got so bad that the rebels eventually moved to a nearby island (Blefuscu).
This story, of course, is taken from Gulliver’s Travels. Jonathan Swift wrote this book in 1726 to make a commentary of how ridiculous some things had become in England. In the first part of the book, he was trying to show how stupid some of the wars were. As he pointed out, it is easy to lose sight of why we are fighting. It is easy to make the side you are on more important than the real issue.
Whenever problems and conflicts arise, our natural reaction is to side with a particular position. While it is true that there are many occasions where it is important to take a stand on an issue, it is usually unwise to side with one certain group. Even if a particular "side" fully supports your issue, you should fight for the issue, not the side.
If you think about it, both sides in a conflict often have a great deal in common. You will often find that the "other side" has many values consistent with your own. It is usually only a few issues that you oppose. If you allow yourself to take sides in a conflict, you will probably end up siding against a group that you don’t totally oppose. Of course, once you take sides, your opposition to the other side will increase.
During the American Civil War, brothers fought against brothers. Family members that were once united tried to destroy each other. Former friends tried to kill each other simply because their former friend was on the "wrong" side. "Taking sides" eliminated the common ground that these people once shared. Look at the chapter There are no Winners in Wars for more information on the dangers of wars.
Although it is important not to take sides in secular conflict, it is even more important not to take sides in church conflicts. Taking sides in a church problem is a quick way to bring about a church split. Taking sides polarizes the church, making it vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. You should never make a church problem an us-against-them situation. Doing this creates hurt feelings and resentment. Some of these feelings can last for years. It has been 140 years since the Civil War, and we can still feel the resentment in some parts of our country. Conflicts can create long-lasting divisions.
You should never "side" with anyone but God. The story of Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land emphasizes this point. In Joshua 5:13-15, a warrior with a sword approached Joshua. When Joshua asked him whose side he was on, the Commander of the Lord’s Army said that He was on neither side, but was on God’s side. In the history of mankind there have been only a few conflicts where the "correct side" had been so obvious. Yet, even in this situation, God made it a point to show that there are no "correct sides" here on Earth.
As Christians, we are called to be defenders of truth, the gospel, and what is right. We are not called to be defenders of a person, a position, or an organization. Your loyalty should always be to God, not to a person or organization.
I bring this issue up because some of the problems we have within the Christian community are a result of blind loyalty. Many Christians commit themselves to a person, position or an organization, instead of being committed to God, the truth, and what is right.
The problem with being committed to a person instead of God is that people are fallible; we make mistakes. Even great Christians can fail and do things that are seriously wrong. If you are committed to a person instead of the truth, there is a possibility that you may end up defending the person’s actions. This can lead to serious problems if another Christian sees the person’s sins and tries to help correct the problem. This opposition between you and the other person can produce an "us against them" mentality, which often results in divisions.
The impeachment trial of President Clinton is a good example of this. Although both parties were looking at the same facts, the Republicans wanted Clinton impeached and the Democrats didn’t. Without making a commentary on whether Clinton should have been impeached, it is indisputable that party affiliation played a major part in the impeachment vote. Many of the politicians voted in a way that would enhance their party’s power instead of voting purely on the facts. In my opinion, decisions should never be based on allegiances, but on the merits of the issue itself. Unfortunately, this same type of blind allegiance is very prominent in churches and Christian ministries.
It is important to understand that I see a big difference between defending a person and supporting him. Supporting a person means caring for his welfare and providing him aid and help. It also means being honest enough to confront him about his sins. Defending a person (in this context) involves blind loyalty and defense of (or covering up) his actions even when you know he is wrong. I want to point out, though, even if you feel a person is in the wrong, you still should provide aid if he is in need. The chapter Shooting your Wounded talks about how we should not abandon a person who has fallen.
Unfortunately, I have seen many situations where a prominent Christian does something seriously wrong only to have the other leaders in the organization cover up the mistake and deny any wrongdoing. The other leaders do this because they feel that exposure of this sin would damage the ministry and its outreach. While it is true that it is usually better to handle problems internally and quietly, you should never deny or protect wrongdoing. This is the reason why it is important to be defenders of the truth instead of a defender of a person.
Most of us have seen enough war films or news reports to know how destructive wars can be. The goal of each side is to completely destroy their enemy’s military. That’s the problem with Christian wars (conflicts within a church). If you take sides, you create an us-against-them attitude. In order for your side to win, you try to destroy the other side. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this tragedy happen too many times. It has been said, "You don’t truly win by making the other side lose."
When you stop and think about it, the people you are fighting against in church wars usually are not unsaved "evil" people. They are usually your brothers and sisters in Christ. These are God’s children and He loves them just as much as He loves you. He cares for them just as much as He cares for you. He’s concerned about their welfare just as much as He cares about your welfare. Do you think God is honored and pleased that you are trying to destroy His children? Even if you are in the "right," you should be careful how you fight the battle. You should be fighting the problem, not the people. Your goal should be restoration, not obliteration.
The side we are on is not nearly as important to God as the way we behave. We don’t get eternal rewards for being on the correct side; we get them for honoring God with our actions. Our behavior and actions are more important to God than the side we are on. See the chapter Being Stuck on the "Wrong" Side for more information.
Let’s go back to our original topic of taking sides in conflicts. God calls you to honor Him with your thoughts, words, and actions. We should only take sides with God and with God alone. Regardless of what the future brings us, we should conduct ourselves in a way that is glorifying and honoring to God.
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