Book Review: If You Bite & Devour One Another by Alexander Strauch




If You Bite & Devour One Another is the new title by Alexander Strauch (Lewis & Roth Publishing, 2011, 173 pages).

About the Author

For the past forty years Alexander Strauch has served as a teaching elder at the Littleton Bible Chapel in Littleton, Colorado. He has also taught philosophy and New Testament literature at Colorado Christian University. He has written of more than a dozen books and is the best selling author of Biblical Eldership which is a recognized authority on the topic of biblical eldership by Bible colleges and seminaries around the world.

Introduction


The title of the book comes from Gal. 5:15, "But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another."

Church conflict is all around us. How many times do we hear accounts of church members suing their pastor and church over church discipline? Or how often do we hear reports of church's splitting right down the middle over trivial matters while the world sits and laughs at us? Countless pastors, church leaders and godly saints and their families have been wounded and scarred by the turmoil and agony of church conflict. In fact, the pain from the conflict can be so agonizing that it can take years to heal.

Unquestionably, the most toxic and poisonous churches that I have ever seen have been ones riddled with believers biting and devouring each other with bursts of gossip and slander.

I was eager to read this latest book by Strauch as he addresses an issue that all of us as believers will encounter sooner or later.

Overview


Strauch's aim is to help believers have a better understanding of the Biblical teachings on conflict and subsequently help us learn how to respond to that conflict using Biblical principles.

His first three chapters focus on 1. Act in the Spirit 2. Act in Love and 3. Act in Humility

The remainder of the book, Strauch focuses in on specific principles for handling that conflict.

Our new life in Christ

Strauch writes, "When conflict arises, our attitudes and behaviors should reflect our new life in Christ given by the Holy Spirit who lives within us (p. 9)." This seems simple enough. It easy when everything is going well, when people are being nice and loving to then be nice and loving back. Often is the case, when a person's true stripes are revealed occurs when we are confronted, when strong disagreement occurs and a conflict arises. And then we can react in the flesh rather than in the Spirit which in turns escalates the problem and then the problem usually snowballs from there.

Our new life in Christ should resemble the gospel in our lives. Strauch writes, "If only we would recognize that every conflict is a test as to whether or not we will display Christlike character, the wisdom from above, and the reality of the gospel in our lives (p.18)."

Life in the Spirit

As part of our new life in Christ as Christians we are supposed to reflect the gospel in our lives, Strauch emphasizes that to have unity and resolve conflict Biblically, we must walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 18, 25). Strauch's exposition on this topic is excellent. He does an excellent job of explaining what this means, how we are to walk in the Spirit and how the ministry of the Spirit helps us resolve conflict. The Holy Spirit is necessary in order to resolve church conflict.

When we walk in the Spirit, we are seeking to have the fruit of the Spirit evident in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23). We bear His fruit as we walk and abide in Christ.

If we want to resolve conflict within the church, we must be walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

Resolving Conflict with Love and Humility

Strauch points out how we as believers are called to act in love (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4-7). Acting out in love and graciousness can help resolve conflict and heal wounds. Strauch also points out the biblical admonitions for a call to act in humility (cf. Rom. 12:3; Gal. 6:3). This will also be evident in how we talk to one another and about one another.

In order to effectively resolve conflict, we must be willing to admit our own faults with love and express gracious humility. Strauch notes, "Conceit produces vain boasting and feelings of superiority that hinder conflict resolution. Conceit causes us to be defensive, self-righteous, and stubborn. It blinds us to our own errors and glaring faults (p.43)."

At the root of many conflicts often lurks pride. Therefore Strauch spends a great deal of time discussing pride and the antidote of humility and how it affects conflict as the Bible has a great deal to say about pride and the necessity of having genuine humility.

We are called to be peacemakers

Strauch's section and discussion on the imperative of pursuing peace is also commendable. Believers are called to pursue peace (Mark 9:50; Rom. 12:18; 2 Cor. 13:11; 1 Thess. 5:13; Rom. 14:19; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; Col. 3:15).

To not pursue peace is sin. We are called to have harmony with one another not acrimony. Strauch's exposition on this topic was an excellent reminder of the high calling we have to be peacemakers.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

I thought this book was an excellent read! I highly recommend this book and resource. It was well researched, contained excellent and detailed exposition of key Scripture passages related to matters of dealing and handling conflict. Strauch's decades of ministry experience was also an invaluable contribution to this book. This book contained a wealth of practical wisdom.

I think this book should be read by every elder and pastor as elders should be setting an example how to be peacemakers in the church and resolving conflict biblically. I think that this is also an excellent resource for elders and church leaders to read and study together.

I am one who has been in numerous settings as well involving church conflict. It can be nasty. The poison from believers, especially those in church leadership can leave others with scars for many years. The damage done as a result of church conflict not being handled appropriately can be colossal. I am thankful for this helpful book by Strauch as it gives the Body of Christ practical and helpful instructions on how to resolve church conflict in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Special thanks to Lewis & Roth Publishing for this review copy.

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