He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears. ~Proverbs 26:17
Isn’t it interesting how arguments that start among church people rarely stay between the parties involved? A simple disagreement over the menu for a church dinner can escalate into a 2011 version of the Hatfields and the McCoys. This somewhat humorous anecdote from Michael Bronson’s article on church splits illustrates how a simple disagreement can suddenly blow out of proportion.
There is a church in Louisiana whose roof is green on one side and red on the other. This was done because some members of the church adamantly wanted green and other members adamantly wanted red. The disagreement was so intense that the church was going to split because of it. Fortunately, a compromise was reached and the church did not split. Unfortunately, the red and green roof is a monument to the surrounding community of the disunity within the body of Christ.
Of course, rarely do we like to admit that our disagreements are “silly.” When we are caught in the middle of them, our natural compulsion is to rush to justify ourselves to anyone who will listen. Unfortunately, this is how other people get brought in and begin to take sides.
As with everything, there is a fine line to walk. It is difficult to see mutual friends staying neutral with a person who has inflicted pain on us. We like to demand loyalty, falling into the grade-school gauntlet of, “You can’t be their friend and be mine too!” Such a mentality is what Solomon was addressing in Proverbs 26. Rushing to take up a friend’s offenses does not qualify as “bearing another’s burden;” it simply creates more strife in the body of Christ.
Proverbs 17:9 reads, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.” I must admit, this is a struggle for me; I tend to take injustice very personally and have a hard time trusting God to be sovereign and deal justly with my adversary. Fortunately, I married a man who has more of a “live and let live” outlook on life, and we balance each other.
Personally, I think everyone should have at least one friend to take their side in conflict–but, if possible, this should be a friend who does not know the other party and cannot get involved in a battle of wills should one arise. This friend becomes the ear ready for you to “vent” at any time without fear of your words ever going back and stirring up more problems. Hopefully one day I will be mature enough in my faith that I can take my venting to God and leave it there without needing man’s approval. In the meantime, I’m thankful for godly counsel and wise friends.