There is much strife in the world today. There is strife between nations, strife between political parties, strife between co-workers, strife in marriages between husband and wife, strife between parents and children, and even strife in some churches. The works of the flesh are described in Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Looking at the list of the works of the flesh, strife can be caused by hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy and the like. James describes some reasons for strife in James 4:1-3 “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
Strife may occur in the church. There can be multiple reasons for such strife. It could be due to one or more individuals exhibiting fleshly attitudes. It could be due to someone holding to a false doctrine. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” If one in the church does not follow the truth of Jesus Christ but instead exhibits a sinful attitude and causes strife, you may need to withdraw from him.
A Christian cannot always avoid strife. Jesus had conflict with the religious leaders when He stood against their hypocrisy and false teachings; this conflict eventually led to His crucifixion. Steven disputed with the Jews in Acts 6 and 7, which led to his being stoned to death. There was a major conflict within the early church as recorded in Acts 15:1-2 “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” As a result of the council in Jerusalem, the apostles and elders were able to resolve their conflict and come to a resolution and agreement.
In any conflict that you find yourself engaged in, you should not exhibit the works of the flesh as listed above. Instead, you should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Having love, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control will resolve many conflicts without strife. 2 Timothy 2:23-26 “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” In this passage, the Apostle Paul states that the servant of the Lord must not quarrel. He emphasizes gentleness, teaching, patience and humility. He also teaches to avoid foolish and ignorant disputes. Sometimes conflict can be avoided by simply refusing to get caught up in a dispute in matters that hold no great importance.
As much as it depends upon you, seek peace and avoid strife. Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Pursue peace. Romans 14:19 “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Be humble and submit to one another. 1 Peter 5:5-6 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” Consider the other person better than or more important than yourself and look out for their interests. Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
My encouragement to you is to be a person that pursues peace. If possible, avoid or resolve strife by having love, gentleness, patience and humility.