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I have a question regarding the church family. I attend a church where there seems to be a lot of animosity between families and friends, especially women. I know this is not how the church is supposed to act; they are supposed to be loving and accept one another no matter what. I stay totally out of any drama that comes between other people, but I continue to find myself not being invited to other christian's events (birthday parties, showers, general get-togethers), and I feel it is because I am a part of a particular "family" or friends with particular people. It feels so hurtful, especially when I have made an effort to talk and invite these other families and friends to my own events. It hurts to see that I am affected when I have nothing to do with any of it, and I don't understand why they act so unloving towards each other. I want my christian family to act how Christ would have us to. It makes me feel unwelcome and disliked. What can I do? Why can't we all just get along?
The church has always struggled with disagreements between individuals… particularly grudges between women. When Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he was so proud of them and considered them to be faithful, wonderful, and dear to his heart (Php 1:7-8). In the entire Philippian letter, Paul only had one problem to address – a dispute between two women (Php 4:2). Euodia and Syntyche were both faithful women that served the Lord with whole hearts (Php 4:3), but they had some disagreement with each other. We say all this just to tell you that what you are experiencing has always been a battle for the Lord’s people. Good people find themselves in disagreements, and it affects the church – even Paul and Barnabas battled it out at one time (Acts 15:37-40).
So what do we do when others don’t act the way they ought and when we feel hurt and maligned? The first thing is to make sure you are always part of the solution and not the problem. Don’t allow yourself to become bitter because of how others behave (Heb 12:15). Continue to make an effort with others and don’t grow weary in doing good (2 Thess 3:13). Change only happens when we rise above each others’ faults and strive to receive each other with love (Rom 15:7). The other practical thing to do is to avoid gossip, slander, and murmuring against others. Whenever there is animosity between people, it is very easy for those around to get caught up in choosing sides, passing judgment, and spreading tales. Pr 26:20 says that a contention can’t continue to spread if people keep their tongues quiet. You can’t change everyone else, but you can give them the benefit of the doubt (just like Paul did with those two women in Philippi), and you can try and be a vehicle for pure, forgiving love in the Lord’s church, so the future of your congregation is more unified, not less. All you can work on is yourself and leave others to do the same. Though the road be bumpy, when everyone works on themselves, the church is always blessed.
Why do we need to go to church?
Dear Sunday Sleeper,
The Bible teaches that we shouldn’t forsake the assembly (Heb 10:24-25). God designed the church so that each individual would be strengthened by the power of the whole (Eph 4:16). God never wanted christians to try and serve Him without the support of a local church; that is why He commanded the church to assemble. It is impossible to do God’s work without being a part of a local church. If you would like help finding a faithful congregation in your area, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If we are rewarded in heaven for our life on Earth, meaning that others will have more in heaven than others, will there be jealousy? I feel like I would be jealous of others that were rewarded more than I in heaven. I feel silly saying that because I would be thankful just to be in heaven at all, but I would feel like God loved others more than me. Is it okay to feel like I would be jealous?
Dear Going Green,
It is true that the Bible talks about storing treasures up for yourself in heaven (Matt 6:19-21), but that doesn’t provide us with many details as to how those treasures work – the mechanics are a total mystery. One analogy that seems to help people is to think of it like two people gathering water from a well; no matter the size of the container, the container will be full. Storing up treasures in heaven has been described as “getting a bigger bucket”. As we said though, this is simply speculation, and we wouldn’t be too dogmatic on the issue.
As for your concern of jealousy in heaven, we don’t know the mechanics of how heaven will work, but we do know that there will be no sin there (1 Cor 15:54-57). Covetousness is a sin (Jas 4:2). In this life, we struggle to rejoice in the joys of our fellow Christians (Rom 12:15); sometimes it stings when we see others with more than us, but the time will come when we will shuck this mortal coil, and those fleshly temptations to covet will no longer plague us.
I attend a church of Christ congregation that has both liberal and conservative members. We have worked hard to accommodate one another for the sake of peace, and for the most part, we have no practices that are unscriptural. However, every second Sunday, a potluck is held in a kitchen/classroom adjacent to the auditorium. The more conservative members, I being one, do not participate because we cannot find anywhere in the Bible where God authorizes potlucks in the church building. Needless to say, this has caused some debate; therefore, the topic is avoided. Is there any Bible authority or example that allows potlucks? We are a small congregation and do not have elders. Sometimes, I worry that by not attending these potlucks, the more liberal members feel I'm being judgmental by not fellowshipping during these potlucks, but I've always been taught that we must have chapter and verse for anything we do. Also, several times, conservative visitors have happened to attend on "potluck Sunday" and have voiced their disapproval. It's difficult to conceal, and in fact, it is announced at the end of services that we are having a potluck – as if everyone hasn't already been distracted by the aroma of roast beef wafting into the auditorium during services. Please comment. The bottom line is: I want my life to be pleasing to God and do not want to make an unrighteous judgment. Thank you.
"Potluck Sunday" Avoider
Dear "Potluck Sunday" Avoider,
We agree that the Lord's church doesn't have authority to use the building for potlucks, social events, etc. You are right on this issue – there is simply no biblical precedent for the church functioning as a social organization. The work of the church is simple, and anything that doesn't fulfill that work shouldn't be done. We posted an answer to a question regarding the work of the church: read "The Purpose Driven Church" for more details on that subject. There was a time when the church needed to hold potlucks because people traveled such long distances by horseback or foot that it was impossible for people to stay for the full day of worship unless they had a meal between... if they went home for a meal, they might as well have stayed home. This was an appropriate use of potlucks because they were an expediency for worship. With today's modern transportation system and the availability of restaurants, that simply is not an issue anymore. Today, potlucks are for the purpose of socializing, not furthering the work of the church. If the work of the church is to socialize, we also ought to have gymnasiums, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. The fact that potlucks are a “tamer” social event than a movie night doesn't make them any less wrong.
Having said all of that, let's now address the issue of your dissenting voice amongst the congregation. Romans 14 is very clear on the subject of stronger and weaker brethren. When one brother believes he can do something (this would be the strong brother), and another believes he can't (the weak brother), how should those two interact with each other? In this circumstance, you are the weak brother. Weak doesn't mean you are wrong or frail; it means you cannot in good conscience participate in these social gatherings. Rom 14:1-4 says that the stronger brother should accept you without condescension or mocking because you are trying to do what you believe is right. Rom 14:13-17 takes it one step further and says that the brother who believes he has the freedom to do something should restrain himself if it is causing his brother to stumble. Your scenario is a good example of this. You believe (and with good reason) that this is an inappropriate use of the Lord's funds, and you do not desire to participate. The congregation should (at the bare minimum) accept your conscientious choice and leave it at that. It is our experience that the opposite is often true. Over time, many congregations as they move toward liberalism try and pressure or demean those with dissenting views. Satan has a way of destroying good relationships by getting more liberal-minded brethren to vigorously fight for their "rights" instead of showing a gentle demeanor with those who don't believe we have the freedom to act so liberally. Sadly, we have seen it time and time again.
In short, you are seeing things clearly, and you are right to be concerned. May God bless you as you stand by your Bible-based convictions.
To follow up on your response about calling men ‘father’ (the post entitled “Parental Paradox”), are you saying it is all right to refer to men as ‘father’ as long as you are not putting them above God? Including, not only a biological parent but even a person of spiritual fatherhood? Some folks in my Lutheran congregation refer to our pastor as ‘father’ or ‘reverend’ or even ‘brother’ but never revere him above God as you pointed out in your post.
Dear Taking Titles,
In order to understand why it is wrong for religious leaders to take the name of ‘father’, we need to put that statement in context. Jesus said to not call anyone ‘father’ (Matt 23:9) at the same time as He condemned the scribes and Pharisees for loving the praise and honor of men (Matt 23:4-6). When ‘father, ‘rabbi’, and ‘master’ are given as titles of prestige and honor, this is exactly what Jesus was condemning. The titles you mentioned are often used in exactly the same manner – ‘reverend’ especially. The word ‘reverend’ is never even found in the Bible. The only one who deserves our reverence is God (Heb 12:28). Anytime that religious leaders take on titles like these, it is a sign that they are seeking to distinguish themselves from other christians. This is the exact opposite of what the apostles did (Acts 10:25-26).