For the Love of Strife
For the Love of Strife
Words of Faith 1-22-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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Also, a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.  Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.  You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me,  so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jesus had just concluded a Passover Seder with His disciples. But it had turned into far more than the usual Seder. When Jesus broke the unleavened bread that represented the Messiah, He gave it to them saying, this is my body. He took a cup of wine and said that it was the cup of a New Covenant. He had also made a powerful and moving commitment to the disciples like that which a groom makes to a bride, that He would not partake of the marriage cup until He returns for them.
What happened next was almost unthinkable. After perhaps the most famous dinner in the world, which included the sharing of the cup of the New Covenant, a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Strife broke out among them? Really? After being present for the most memorable words in all of history was a dispute?
It must have been a terribly disappointing moment for Jesus. Jesus had just broken the bread that symbolized the Messiah and uttered the words, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." He had just shared a cup with them saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." And now this? What's more, according to John's Gospel, the disciples entered the room with this same argument, and Jesus had even responded by washing their feet. We might wonder, Will they ever get it?
It seems that in even the holiest of moments we humans can get our egos in the way of what God is doing. The Lord can pour out His heart and grace and even His blood, but still, a dispute will arise among disciples. But Jesus did not lose heart. Instead, He used the opportunity to clarify once more what His Kingdom is about, and what it is not about.
The scene is interesting because it was about even more than jockeying for position. The translated "dispute" (philoneikia) actually means the "love of strife". Interesting. Have you ever noticed that some people love strife and even love to be in conflict?
The translation from Greek means to be eager and ready to argue and contend; being alert to strive for one's position. It conveys the idea of giving no ground, of standing up no matter what, of being stubborn and resistant regardless of circumstances. It is the sort of word that describes one who does not want to be confused with the facts because they have already made up their mind to be angry.
The truth is that much of Church History is filled with people eager and ready to argue and contend, people alert not to God's bidding but alert to strive for position, people unwilling to give ground, resisting God regardless of circumstances. The "love of strife" can sneak up on us when, in our humanity, we sometimes desire to control things, or we get jealous over "turf."
Even more interesting here was the timing. There had just been this incredibly holy moment. None more sacred, some would say. How could the "love of dispute" break out at this moment? But, in fact, it is an almost predictable way that the Enemy attacks. My experience has been that the "love of strife"-- the love of control and desire to contend-- almost always breaks out after a holy moment or great victory.
If you have a great victory in a revival, get ready because the love of dispute will probably break out. If you have a significant success in the church, get ready, because the love of strife will be near. If you come home from a great victory at a retreat or camp, get ready because the "love of strife" is likely to break.
Jesus used the opportunity to teach. Perhaps we can learn. He contrasted the world's way and the Kingdom way. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors." The way of the world is to lord over. The Message translates this: "Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles."
There is a part of our sinful nature that likes to take control or seize authority when in reality anything we have belongs to God. We want to call ourselves "Benefactor" or think of ourselves as "generous"; when, in fact, the most that we ever can do is faithfully manage what God has entrusted to us. In the Kingdom of God, there are no "Benefactors" only stewards.
The way of the Kingdom is entirely different. Jesus said, "But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest". The Kingdom way is one of servant leadership. Servant leadership did not come from a business seminar. It came from Jesus. Act like the youngest or least.
The one who rules should act like the one who serves. "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."
Jesus was also clear that there is a proper authority. "You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Genuine Kingdom authority is conferred, not seized. The authority that is delegated from God is evidenced in servanthood. Such delegated authority is often recognized and confirmed by Body in some way such as ordination. But this is not something that can just be passed by the laying on of hands like some kind of ecclesiastical game of tag. God confers, and the Body confirms.
There are many warnings in Scripture about how we treat one another: Matthew 23:12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Obadiah 1:4 Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down," declares the Lord.
How do we respond to this? We can watch out in our own lives for the "love of strife." We can seek to surrender to the Spirit rather than try to seize control of things. We can pursue a Kingdom perspective that recognizes that greatness is always measured in the economy of service to others.
Father God, forgive me the times I have surrendered to the love of strife. Forgive me the times I have seized control or authority rather than taking the opportunity to serve. Forgive me for the times I have lost perspective and lorded over others. Teach me how to serve. Show me the grace of walking as the least among others. In Jesus' name.