There's trouble in our church. One group of people, not happy with things, have suggested changes that a second group doesn't like. Tempers are starting to rise, and it seems only a matter of time before cross words are exchanged and we're engaged in conflict
Now, I've been deliberately vague about the actual cause of the tension, because that's not what this post is about. Rather, it's about how we can resolve our church differences in a Christian manner.
The first thing we'll need to remember is that, while we disagree, we're all supposed to be part of the same family. Jesus has some thoughts about that:
your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, For if you love
only those who love you, what credit is that to you? And if you exchange greetings
only with your own circle, are you doing anything
exceptional? Even sinners do that much.
- Matt. 5:43-50
It's going to be difficult. For one thing, whenever people square off into two groups, if there's a conflict, there will be a winner and a loser. Jesus had some thoughts about conflict resolution, too:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
(Not that I think the other group is evil. But unintentionally hurtful things can be said by even the best of us. Retaliated in kind is the cycle Christ's interested in breaking here.)
And what happens when someone steps over the line and says something that can't be taken back? Well, according to Christ, it can be -- if not taken back, at least forgiven.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I
forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus
answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
- Matt. 18:21-35
(I'm doing well if I remember to forgive one time!)
Although this disagreement is foremost in the minds of the people involved (yes, including me), most of the congregation has no idea there's anything wrong. The natural thing to do is to enlist more people to the cause. But that's not a good idea -- as Paul pointed out:
For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.
And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.... that there should be no schism in the body; but the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
- 1 Col. 12:12-26
So it's not about one group being bad and the other good, or one being right and the other wrong, or even one group being important and the other unimportant. I think if we can keep those concepts in mind, we'll weather this crises in a a Christian manner. There won't be a winner or loser, but two groups who reach an accord that binds them tighter together in harmony.
That's what I'm praying for, anyway -- and that I can do my part to make it happen.