Monday, March 11, 2013

Surviving a Church Fight -- Lessons from Korah's Rebellion

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Monday, March 11, 2013:  Numbers 15:17-16:40

Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”  Number 16:1-4 (NIV)

A rebellion arose among God's people.  It was led by one Levite named Korah and two from the tribe of Reuben named Dathan and Abiram.  Under their influence, 250 other leaders were now in full rebellion against the Lord's leadership through Moses and Aaron.

It is a tragic thing when such harsh division takes place among God's people.  Anyone who has experienced a church fight knows that it can be vicious.  The story of Korah's rebellion does not have a happy ending.  God's judgment led to the immediate death of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram along with all of the other 250.  Indirectly, another 14,000 died within the next few days! (see Numbers 16:49)

It is always both amazing and sobering to read about such stories in the Old Testament.  In those days, God would often show up in dramatic fashion wreaking havoc on those who opposed His purposes.  Conversely, He also made His positive presence known by fantastic outward signs such as clouds and fire. 

There is a sense in which God has hidden Himself from us today in the ways He operates.  No longer does He show up at church congregational meetings "settling" the disputes.  No longer do we hear a booming voice saying, "Move away from the offending parties.  I'm about to open up an earthquake under them!"

However, we would make a mistake to think that just because God is not as obvious today, He therefore is less concerned and less active.  GOD TAKES REBELLION SERIOUSLY.  He might not literally strike someone dead, but He will bring about justice -- in His own way.

There are several lessons we should note from the story of Korah's rebellion.  It would be beneficial to pursue each of these further, but time and space prohibits that here. 

Lesson 1:  God watches HOW we disagree. 

It is virtually impossible for Moses to lead Israel without ever making a mistake.  It is important for us to be able to discuss differences in a mature manner.  To put it in a cliche, we must be able TO DISAGREE AGREEABLY.  Most church fights quickly degenerate into name calling and personal attacks.  Accusations fly and battle lines are drawn.  This type of rebellion is detestable to God.  It was in Korah's day, and it is today, too.

When things are not going as you want in your local fellowship, don't incite a rebelliion!!!  It is dangerous.  It is deadly.  Seek proper and mature ways to remedy the situation.  I believe God will bless us if our hearts stay right. 

Lesson 2:  God watches how we RESPOND TO CRITICISM.

Moses is an amazing leader.  When Korah and company fired off the attack, he responded by falling on his face.  He responded by praying.  He took it to God.  He let God settle the dispute. 

So here's the question:  How do you respond to criticism?  How do you react when people don't like what you are doing?  Most people have a "fight or flight" response.  They either get mad and fight back.  Or they get sad and say, "I quit."  There is a third response which God seeks in us.  It is the prayer, "God, show me what You're saying to me out of this."

Too often, our response to rebellion makes matters worse.  By fighting fire with fire, we all get down and dirty thus producing a complete no-win situation.  Moses did not descend to the level of his attackers, and neither should we.

Lesson 3:  A bad attitude is CONTAGIOUS.

Korah appears to be the central individual in this entire story of rebellion.  He found allies in Dathan and Abiram.  From there, the picture broadens to 250 other leaders.  But, it doesn't stop there.  Because of the dramatic and tragic fallout from God's intervention, 14,000 others die!

When you or I get into a bad place, it is important to nip it in the bud.  Bitterness or rebellion has a way of contaminating everything around it.  We have all seen this in a host of settings.  It might be someone at work who has a bad attitude.  It might be a family member who holds a grudge.  When someone is not happy, over time they will find others who are equally unhappy.  They then can form a kind of alliance -- "the alliance of the malcontents."

Many churches, many families, many good situations have been fouled up because a bad attitude became contagious and infected many others.  While it may start on a very small scale, we need to realize that these so-called petty problems can excalate into major plagues.  Little did Korah think that his bad attitude toward Moses would end up hurting thousands of others.

We need to treat matters like this with great care and attention.  The longer it perculates, the worse it can get.  Deal with it NOW.

I will close with this thought:  nearly everyone at some time or another has been affected by a church fight.  The purpose of this small blog is to help prevent some of the damage that is being done today to God's great purposes.  The critics of the church are legion.  Many have sworn off of church altogether because somewhere somehow they were hurt.  In our day, may there be a new wave of health that sweeps across God's people.  He don't have to always end up fighting and injuring one another.  We can live out the Gospel together in the bond of peace and joy.  To that end, may we all make a renewed commitment!  May we walk together in the Kingdom of God.

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