Have you ever been hurt by another believer and left in a dizzy mess of confusion? Have you ever been the one to inflict the hurt, whether intentionally or unintentionally?
The answer to that second question may be a little harder to come to, but the honest answer for all of us fallen human beings would be yes. We have all hurt and we have all been hurt. We have all felt the pangs of brokenness and betrayal. Reading this may even stir feelings of resentment in your heart because you are currently in the tangled web of fighting for forgiveness and you can’t seem to get out of the mess. Whether you are currently in a battle or will be in one, we must all learn to fight the right fight.
GOD’S WILL IN OUR MESS
The truth is, conflict between believers can be one of the messiest areas in the Church, and one we tend to keep off-limits. As followers of Christ, we have all been washed by the same blood of the Lamb and are new creations. The problem enters when we wallow in the sins of the past and wander from the perfect ways of God. While we live in the flesh, we will battle against the sin in this world. That is where sanctification rescues us. When Christ died on the cross, He broke the chains of sin and death once and for all. When you decided to follow Jesus and responded to the call of the Holy Spirit, you were set free and washed white as snow (Is. 1:18). However, Scripture is clear that on this side of eternity, we still battle (Rom. 7:5).
Paul explains this truth in 1 Corinthians 6:11: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” All of us were dead in our sins, but by the blood of Jesus, we have been set free. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 goes even further to tell us that that “will of God” is our sanctification.
The word for sanctification in Greek is haglasmos, and it means consecration and purification. God desires that we be purified and set apart for His purpose, and He uses all the circumstances of life to accomplish that purpose. We are all in the process of sanctification; therefore we are all in need of God’s immeasurable “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
Within the Body of Christ, we are called to unity; to be one in heart, mind, and soul. Which brings me to these questions—Why is it hard to get on the same page with believers at times? Why do we work against one another? Why do we compete? We all serve the same God and read from the same Bible; however, we are all still desperately in need of the Gospel. We are all sinners radically saved by grace. The reason for disunity and dysfunction in relationships is sin. The only rescue and hope for restoration we have is Jesus and Jesus alone.
DISCERNING THE REAL ENEMY
Our initial response to hurts caused by others is to judge and to retaliate. We revert quickly back to our sinful habits. We view the person as the enemy and justify our place to respond back as judge. This, however, is not what we see commanded in Scripture. When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, He cautioned His people against hastily judging others (Matt. 7:1–5) and warned against retaliating (Matt. 5:38–42). Not only that, but He calls us to forgive … time after time! (Matt. 18:22).
My fear is that we are fighting the wrong battle and are losing every time. The real enemy in this battle is not people, it is Satan. Instead of fighting against a person and trying to control our feelings and responses, we need to hand over the battle to the Lord. 2 Corinthians 10:3–5 gives us God’s directions in fighting the right battles:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
Did you get that? We don’t fight against flesh and blood; we fight a spiritual battle, and as believers, we are on the winning side with Jesus. It is time we stand our ground, refusing to allow Satan to convince us the “enemy” is another believer. We are to fight the real enemy together! If we are not careful, we will allow judgmental, unforgiving spirits to disrupt God’s will of sanctification in our lives. God is not concerned about us fixing other people or exacting justice for our own hurts; He is concerned about us coming to Him in humility and leaving our pain at His feet. As 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands, we are to literally destroy, or refute, any idea that is not true about God and others. The battle most often is fought in our minds, and Scripture clearly tells us that we are to take our thoughts captive and make them obey Christ.
The truth is, the sins of others often reveal the sins in our own hearts and minds. Ouch. I have been learning this firsthand, and God has been scrubbing my heart every which way as I have mulled this over. The hurts caused by other people are often the brush God uses to scrub our own hearts. Instead of fighting the brush, let’s turn our gaze back to Jesus, deal with the sin in our hearts, and pray for our sisters in Christ. None of us are guiltless before a perfect God without Jesus to stand in our place. Psalm 19:12–13 even reveals to us that we have all sinned intentionally and unintentionally, and we need to ask for cleansing. What if we got on our knees and prayed for forgiveness, revival, and unity, instead of living in hurtful, broken relationships? We would truly be living the unity that Christ died for.
fighting the good fight
I believe it is time we started fighting the right fight—the good fight for the faith. Each day there will be distractions and flaming arrows shot at us by Satan to disrupt the unity in the Church, our homes, and our spiritual walks. We must put up our shields of faith against these attacks and join Paul in fighting the “good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). Whatever hurt you are harboring and whatever bitterness Satan has planted in your heart, the Gospel can uproot it and plant life, truth, and forgiveness … today. Instead of focusing on the sins of others, let’s ask God to scrub our own souls and pray for unity in our relationships. Don’t just fight for fighting's sake. Fight the good fight of the faith, with your sisters in Christ by your side.
This fight is for eternity. Let’s link arms together and humbly kneel before the cross. In this, we will fight the right battle— together, for His glory, for our good.
Jesus, keep our eyes on you. Heal our broken hearts and scrub our dirty souls. Unify your Church and hold fast our gaze on the cross. May the Gospel draw us close to you and to each other. I pray this in your name, Amen.