Jesus knew it would happen. In John 13, He showed His disciples what love does, and then told them to love one another. He said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35)
This statement seems to give those outside the family permission to say that those who cannot get along and lack that love toward other believers cannot be Christians. In other words, infighting in the church is a serious matter. It can ruin our testimony to the world.
I remember the first time another Christian irked me to the point where I considered her my enemy. I knew that this was wrong, but had zero affection for this person. For months, I wrestled with a bad attitude and anger. Finally it became obvious that the other person would never change, so I asked God to help me get over it.
I thought it would be impossible, but the Lord showed me several things that I could do that would change my attitude. Three of them are in today’s devotional passage.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-8)First, I needed to pray for this person every time I thought of her and ask God to bless her. This was a challenge in the beginning, but it had the effect I wanted; my anger began to go away. You cannot pray for an enemy and remain antagonistic, particularly when that ‘enemy’ is someone in God’s spiritual family, a brother or a sister in Christ.
Second, I needed to remember that God was at work in this person. I needed to trust Him to do in her what I perceived needed to be done (which is an arrogant thought in the first place). He was her Savior too, and just as I trusted my life and spiritual growth to Him, I must also trust her to Him. If there were no changes and I complained, I was really complaining about the plan of God.
Third, we were both partakers of grace. Grace means that God loves and forgives sinners, including her, including me. Is my sin any less than anyone else’s sin? I began to see that my unloving attitude was just as bad, if not worse, than the things that angered me in this person.
Praying for her dissipated my anger. Trusting God and seeing that we were both partakers of grace changed my perspective. This was more than twenty years ago. This person has not yet changed, at least as far as I can see, but I’m no longer filled with frustration concerning her and still trust God to do as He wishes in her life (and mine).
Praying for those that seem like enemies (and remembering our real enemies are not flesh and blood, Ephesians 6:12) will break the power of that real enemy. We don’t have to let him stir us into sibling spats and give those outside the church good reason to doubt that we are children of the King.
Graphic from Ray Comfort's Blog