Acts 15: Conflict in the Church
In most areas of life, I think I am pretty realistic. When it comes to conflict among believers, however, I tend to be an idealist. I believe that unity is something that God requires of us. Believers should be able to talk, pray and work through conflict—just the way it was worked through by the church at Jerusalem. However, I am becoming a little more realistic about this. I have been in several situations in which I felt like I did everything within my power to bring about reconciliation—but failed.
This seems to be the case with Paul and Barnabas. These two men who were used by God to keep a church from splitting could not resolve their own differences and ended up going separate ways. The late Kenneth Strachen, of Latin American Mission, said, "We all need to live and serve in the constant recognition of our own humanity."
Warming Up to God
Has there been a time recently when you were in conflict with someone? Tell God about it and let his peace and compassion wash over you as he teaches you.
Discovering the Word
- Describe the conflict that arises between the Christians (vv. 1-35).
- Describe the spirit of those involved and the steps that were taken to resolve this conflict.
- What were the results?
- In what ways do you see (or can you assume) unity between Paul and Barnabas (vv. 36-41)?
- Paul and Barnabas came to the point of "agreeing to disagree" and going their separate ways. What were the benefits of this temporary solution?
Applying the Word
- What principles do you observe that are vital to follow as we face conflict with others in our Christian community?
- Which of these principles do you struggle with implementing the most?
- Both Paul and Barnabas seemed to have strong cases for their points of view. Under what kinds of circumstances should we surrender deep convictions when they are challenged by another?
- No matter how strongly we feel about an issue, we do not see the whole picture. How should that affect the way we respond to people with whom we are in conflict?
Responding in Prayer
Ask God to give you discernment as you face conflict in both the church and in your personal life.