Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "May The Mind Of Christ My Saviour"1 (Lyrics)
James 3:17-18 – But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (ESV)
Having been involved in a church committee debate over the colour of paint, I was struck (and maybe stung) by Nan St. Louis' recent devotional, "Where are you?" which mentioned the negative effect on others of Christians who disagree over such things.
I completely agree with her desire for vibrant, caring, joyful churches which rise above petty squabbles. But I was struck recently by a comment that whereas conflict is inevitable in the church, God's challenge is to do conflict well. The issue is not that we quarrel over the colour of paint (or the music or whatever) but how we handle and resolve that conflict.
So often, our instinct is to run and hide from a conflict, and all the more because we hope that the church is the place of peace in an unpeaceful world. The important thing to remember is that disagreeing is not necessarily the same as disparaging or disrespecting. There is a way for Christians to disagree agreeably, to face into a conflict and work through it to a resolution — and very often a stronger relationship with those with whom we disagree.
A moving example is the recent "Larnaca Statement" by Israeli and Palestinian Christians. They don't agree on many deep differences, but they are trying to do conflict well.
Have a look at some of these passages:
Matthew 18:15-18 – Jesus laid out a step-by-step process for handling a difficulty between two Christians.
Acts 18:24-26 – Priscilla and Aquila brought Apollos into their home and explained the way of God more accurately.
Galatians 5:25-6:1 – The outworking of the fruit of the Spirit may gently and humbly restore an offender.
2 Timothy 2:22-26 – A kind, non-quarrelling approach may well bring someone to a knowledge of the truth.
2 John 1:12 and 3 John 1:13-14 – John was reluctant to write certain things down, not, I think, because he was running out of paper but because the things that he wanted to say were better said face-to-face than on paper. If he were writing today, he would have included social media.
As Nan remarked to me in our (cordial) e-mail discussion, "Do we love each other enough to push through to lovingly disagree? … May we care enough to talk face to face."
Prayer: God of peace, may we never fall into the trap of healing wounds lightly, crying "peace, peace" where there is no peace. Help us to handle conflict well with gentleness and respect, that there may be ultimately "sweet agreement at the meeting of our eyes" (cf. Graham Kendrick's song "Jesus stand among us"). May the main things (that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ) be the main things in our basic unity in the body of Christ. Teach us to be gracious and how to put up with it when the colour scheme or the hymns annoy us. Amen.