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THE SILENT WAR IN THE CHURCH

A Winnable War We Must Not Ignore.

by Larry Cory

 

THE SILENT WAR IN THE CHURCH
PART 5
THE SILENT WAR CAN BE LIKE THE WARS IN THE WORLD
(When does the worst in the world become part of the church?

     If there was only one person in the universe, the subject I will be discussing would not be an issue or a problem.  But the moment there are two people, it does become an issue and a problem.  How do people relate to each other?  Or, even more importantly, how do selfish people relate to each other?  God has a plan for relationships that is described in the Bible that enables selfish people to become selfless and loving people.  God's answer to relationship problems is for us to put our faith in Jesus and His death on the cross to pay the penalty for our many sins so that we can be born again by His Spirit.  This, then, makes it possible for us to obey Jesus in the power of the Spirit and to genuinely love each other in the way that is described in the Bible.  If we all seek to obey Jesus and love each other fully, our relationships will begin to be more like the relationships between the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.
     The problem, though, is that the majority of the people in the world have relationships that are very unlike the relationships among the members of the Godhead.  One very ugly result of relationships between selfish people is what are called "power struggles."  This takes place when a person or group of people seek to force others to do what they want them to do.  This can lead to the very worst of what happens on this planet: murder, mass murder, malicious slander, divisions, mob rule, bitter hate, every type of injustice, divorce, and many more destructive results all can be the tragic results of power struggles.  It may be the greatest problem on earth.  The simple solution for this problem is genuine love.
     Power struggles can take place even in a simple marriage relationship between one man and one woman.  There are basic relationship issues in the marriage relationship that must be resolved.  Will they be resolved by a growing love relationship or through a power struggle where only one side wins?  Some of the issues that must be resolved are as follows: How do the two make their decisions?  How do they communicate?  How do they become united in their goals?  How do they both maintain their individuality?  How do they together realize their dreams?  How do they work together through difficult times?  God's plan produces a voluntary love relationship that produces unity.  The more human pattern is for the marriage to develop into a power struggle where one side wins and the other side loses; or, even more commonly, both sides lose.
     As has been mentioned, power struggles can occur on a small scale inside a home between the members of a family and between the members of a marriage; but they can also occur on a massive scale.  Power struggles on the world scene have resulted in the deaths of millions of people.  When a group unites together to gain power in a society, sometimes the only way they can gain that power is by killing off those who oppose them.  History and the present-day news media give us reports on these types of power struggles.  Historical examples are the murderous Nazi take-over of Germany and much of Europe; and the bloody communist take-over in China, Russia, and Eastern Europe.  More recent power struggles have been the ISIS movement, the human slaughter of the Tutsis in Rwanda, the killing fields of Cambodia, the genocide in Somalia, and others.  A little closer to home is the present ugly power struggle between the Democrats and the Republicans.
     Power struggles occur and become ugly when one side seeks to rule by eliminating the other side's free and voluntary choice to disagree with them or to oppose them.  "We know what is right for everybody.  We will decide for you how you are to think and live."  A word has been developed that describes this type of power politics.  The word is "groupthink."  Everyone is required to think only in a certain way.  Thinking differently will result in some type of group sanction.
     Allow me to describe what takes place in a power struggle.  One side forms an alliance and forces the other side to involuntarily live under their rule.  The names of some of these alliances in our world lead us to recall the genocides that took place as they took over a country or some other group of people: Nazism, communism, ISIS, Hutus, Iran, Pearl Harbor, and many more.  People who are in the way of one side winning a power struggle are coldly treated as necessary collateral damage—even if it leads to their death. 
     Here is a description of the types of behaviors that happen in a power struggle:  1) In a power struggle, the truth does not matter.  The new right and wrong is whatever it takes so that our side wins.  2) Also, nothing positive is to be said about those on the other side of the power struggle.  Only fault-finding will help win the battle.  They, he, or she are bad in every way.  Nothing loving or caring must be talked about when discussing them.  Rather, all of their faults are highlighted again and again; for otherwise, they cannot be overpowered and defeated (ones own faults are conveniently not to be mentioned, seen, or discussed).  Particularly, you can only execute someone who is made to look like a cockroach or like some type of vermin.  3) Finally, any means that will accomplish the end of defeating the evil foe is permitted: lies, exaggerations, unfair and inaccurate fault-finding, innuendo, mocking, character assassination, mob revolts, and in extreme cases violence and even murder are permitted.
     In our own world today, these types of power struggles are discussed daily in the news.  Putin wants Russia to regain its former power over the countries that once were in the Soviet Union.  People have died in Crimea and Ukraine because of Putin's desire for more power over more people.  My wife and I have wondered why he is not satisfied being the ruler of Russia.  Kim Jong-Un wants his little country to be treated like a super power; so, he uses the threat of nuclear attack to increase his power in the world.  ISIS and Iran both want their forms of Islam to rule the world; so, they seek to increase their power in the world through terrorist attacks.  Also, we see a power struggle between the Democrats and Republicans.  We have an electoral process where we voluntary choose our leaders, but the tactics used in power plays are daily being used to demean and defeat the other side: mob violence, slander, malicious gossip, anonymous leaks, mocking, shunning, lies, false accusations, unfair characterizations, and more.  The goal is to overpower the other side rather than to persuade our fellow Americans to make voluntary and wise decisions for the best of the country.  The goal is not to do what is best for everyone in the country, but the goal is for one group of people to win so that they have power over the other side.  It is not a mutual seeking after what is best for all, but a divided country where one side in particular is trying to overpower the other side.
     These types of power struggles have taken place and are taking place in the secular world; but have they taken place and are they taking place in the Christian world?  Sadly, they have happened and are happening in the Christian world also—and they have happened and are happening both on a large scale and on a small scale.  God's plan and Jesus' prayer (John 17) is that the church and churches will be united as one.  The very earliest church was united (Acts 2:42-47).
     But, religion apart from God's Spirit can degenerate into the ugliest of power plays.  The ugliest example of all is what happened between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders.  Jesus was a threat to their places of religious power and control, so they sought after some legal way to arrest and execute Him.  They first of all sought after some fault in Him, but found none; so, they executed Him anyway.  Down through the history of the church, there are many more examples of these types of political and deadly power struggles in the church.  Here are a few examples:  John Hus, in his native Bohemia in the late 1300s and early 1400s, believed that the Roman Catholic Church, that dominated the world at that time, was not teaching what the Bible taught.  He was invited to attend a church council to present his views; but the invitation was a ruse to get him away from his own country so that they could more easily arrest him as a heretic.  In the end, he was burnt alive.  He was a threat to their place of power and leadership, so they eliminated him by killing him.
     William Tyndale in the 1500s desired to provide a Bible translation in the language of the people.  The religious leadership wanted the people to only get their Bible teaching from them.  A translation of the Bible in their own language meant that the people could go straight to the Bible themselves to find out what it taught about God's directions for their lives.  William Tyndale was also executed because he was a threat to the church leadership's desire to have complete control over the church of that time.  Many more met similar fates due to power struggles in the church (see Foxe's Book of Martyrs).
     Can and does this type of thing happen in the church and in churches today?  Since power struggles in our world have resulted in every type of ugliness and in the death of millions, when power struggles are brought into the church, the very worst in the world is also being brought into the church.  Also, since the devil is ruler of the world system, we can be sure that he is behind it.  Here are a few verses in the Bible that state that when there are power struggles in the church, Satan (the slanderer) is behind it.  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. . . . In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:12, 16)
     So, how do we recognize it when Satan has been able to energize and form a power struggle inside of the church or a church?  Here are some signs that a power struggle is taking place:  1) Often, the church has become divided over some issue.  It can be doctrinal, but it can also be any issue about any part of the church's business.  A power struggle can occur when one side of the issue unites to force the other side into submission by using unbiblical methods such as unfair characterizations of the opponents and being hateful and not loving toward those on the other side.
     2) Another sign that a power struggle is taking place is that there is bitterness and an absence of forgiveness toward those on the other side of the issue.  Paul warned us that Satan is empowering us if we hold on to bitterness.  "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:26-27)
     3) Another sign that a power struggle is taking place is when there is the presence of pride.  Pride leads to an arrogant spirit toward those on the other side of the issue.  It has been my observation that those on either side of an issue often both have a part of the truth.  An arrogant spirit leads those on one side of the issue or both sides of an issue to believe that they have all of the truth and that those on the other side have none of the truth.  Humility will lead them to learn from each other.  "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." (James 3:13)  "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18)
     4) Finally, in a power struggle, the goal is not to love each other.  Rather, the goal is to win.  How, then, are those who were on the other side of the power struggle treated after they have been defeated?  Often, the defeated are treated in a cold and heartless manner.  They are treated as if they were and are the enemy, not as if they are fellow Christian brothers and sisters.
     Are there examples of power struggles in the Bible?  The ultimate example was the power struggle between the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus.  An example of a power struggle within the church is found in III John 9-11:  "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God." 
     Another example of a power struggle in the church is what was taking place among the Christians in the church at Corinth in Paul's time:

Paul's solution to the divisions in the church at Corinth was the love chapter in I Corinthians 13. (see also Rom. 16:17; II Tim. 1:16-18)
     What are the results of these type of power struggles?  One side wins and the other side loses may seem to be the only outcome.  But the true outcome is that we all lose.  Here are some of the ways we lose: divisions increase and walls between us grow taller; lines of communications are destroyed; hatred replaces forgiveness and compassion; and understanding and empathy toward each other is replaced by bigotry toward those on the other side of the power struggle.  Furthermore, since vilifying of those on the other side almost always takes place, those who go through a church power struggle almost always come out feeling hated by some people in the church rather than feeling loved.  Can we be vilified by people in our local church without feeling to some degree like we had it coming to us and can it lead us to wondering if we are for some reason worthy of being hated?
     Of course, power struggles are not a God-led part of the church; they are a Satan-led part of the church.  How can we eliminate them from being part of the church so that Satan will not be able to use them to turn fellow Christians against each other?  Also, how can we relate to each other in a way that unites us and does not divide us?  Genuine love for each other seeks to gain cooperation voluntarily, not through force.  It was the gentle, self-sacrificial and genuinely loving Jesus Christ that changed the world in so many good ways.  Even though Christianity morphed into the ugly Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, the Christianity described in the Bible changed people from the inside rather than forcing them to change because of some type of external force.  Early Christianity spread as people voluntarily chose Jesus as their Lord and voluntarily chose to obey Him.  Authentic Christianity only occurs today as people also voluntarily choose Jesus as their Lord and voluntarily choose to obey Him.  In John 14:15, Jesus describes the primary motivation for living the Christian life.  "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)  He loves us; and we freely choose to obey Him because of our love for Him.
     In a fully Christian marriage, both the husband and the wife each seek to do what is right, pure, loving, and wise; as the husband voluntarily and with a servant's heart chooses to lead the marriage toward God's goals for it.  Both the husband and the wife, out of love for each other, wholeheartedly seek the very best for each other.  In a fully Christian church, each person seeks to do what is right, pure, loving, and wise as church leaders, with servant hearts, lead the church toward God's goals for it.  All of the church, out of love for each other, wholeheartedly seeks the very best for each other.  Where there are issues that could divide the church, each person seeks after peace, unity, and love so that they can resolve the issue in a unified way; rather than forming an alliance so they can win a power struggle.  The Bible is absolutely clear, loving each other should be the primary goal of God's church, not gaining a victory for one's own part of the church.  Paul made this very clear in his letter to the Ephesian church:  "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 4:30-5:2)
     Power struggles in the church grieve the Holy Spirit who resides in each of us who are Christians.  So, let us be focused, first of all, being different than the rest of the world where power struggles are quite common.  Rather, we are to be focused on being filled, empowered, and directed by God's Spirit as we seek to build each other up.  "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)  Let us seek to build up the unity of the church and seek the good of each member of God's blood-bought church.  May we each do all we can so that Satan's power struggles will not be allowed to be part of God's Spirit-indwelt church.

The Silent War In The Church

Table of Contents and Brief Intro Table of Contents
Introduction Introduction
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 1 Part 1a
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 2 Part 1b
The Silent War between Churches Part 2
The Silent War with Satan and his Demons Part 3
The Silent War can be Won by God's Love in us Part 4
The Silent War can be like the Wars in the World Part 5
The Silent War between a False and Coerced Unity and a True Unity Part 6
An Essential Requirement Needed for Ending the Silent War Between Christians Part 7
The Silent War Caused by Turning the Church into the Kingdom of Man and not the Kingdom of God Part 8
The Silent War inside of Each Christian Part 9
The Silent War in the Church with the World Part 10
The Silent War Over Divisive Issues Part 11
The Silent War caused by a Mysterious Invading Army Part 12
The Silent War Caused by Seeking Worldly Success Part 13
The Silent War Always Results in Persecution Part 14
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Divide Part 15
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Cause Divisions Part 16
The Silent War Caused by the Church or a Church Dividing over an Important Issue Part 17
When the Church is Winning - Part 1 Part 18a
When the Church is Winning - Part 2 Part 18a
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War Coming Jan 21
How Victory in the Silent War can Lead to Revival in the Church Coming Jan 28
Conclusion Coming Feb 4
Addendum: The Silent War caused by "the onlys" Coming Feb 11
Addendum: A Pastor's Authority by Ray Stedman Coming Feb 18
Addendum: Galatians 6:1-3 (my commentary on these verses) Coming Feb 25
Addendum: John Wesley's sermon at George Whitefield's funeral Coming Mar 4