04 October 2011

Loving the Church: {Day 4} Handling conflict

In case you are here for the first time, I am in the midst of a 31 day series on loving the church.  Go here to read more 31 day series by different bloggers on all kinds of fascinating topics.  Go here to read my introduction to this series.


Welcome back, everyone!  
Anyone?


{I know these posts may not be for all my regular readers.  I assure you that I will sprinkle in some of my regular posts about the family and our antics.  October is a busy month, no?}


So far we've talked about choosing church and about committing to church.  Let's see, what else can I write about that starts with a "c"?


Oh yes, here's a light topic:  conflict.
How are we to love the church when we experience conflict?

Conflict can mean so many things.  Conflicts can be slight, or serious.  Some conflicts are quickly resolved between individuals.  Others require the help of pastors and mediators.  Sometimes the conflict is merely a matter of hurt feelings, and other times the very gospel may be at stake.
In our life in the church, my husband and I have seen a number of conflicts, some close to us and others touching those around us.  I always get a knot in the pit of my stomach when conflicts arise.  But it always helps when I remember that the church is not mine, or the pastor's, but that it belongs to Jesus.
These verses from Colossians provide reassurance and help:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.(Colossians 1:15-18)
In HIM all things hold together.  Even in all our messiness, HE holds it all together.


In my own small way, I have usually tried to deal with conflict with honesty and forthrightness.  I remember clearly the day at church, many years ago, when I felt convicted that I had been ugly and short with two friends.  It really hadn't had anything to do with them, but I had unfortunately taken out my frustration about something else on them.
I left church, feeling awful, guilty and messy.
I can't remember if I actually turned back around from the parking lot, or if I called them on the phone later in the day.  But I do remember having to trust the Lord that IT WOULD BE OKAY to confess my sin to these friends.  I had to remember the gospel myself, that my sin was much deeper than I even perceived, and that I was more loved and forgiven than I could dare to hope.  Only from that point of view could I safely go to these friends and say, "I was so rude to you just now.  It was wrong of me to treat you like that.  I am so sorry.  Would you please forgive me?"


Does that sound like a big deal to you?  At the time, it was a big deal to me.  I was just beginning to live in and understand my true standing in the gospel, to see that I didn't have to preserve any kind of pretense about myself and how "good" I was.  I could be honest about the fact that I wasn't (and still am not!) "good"!  This was liberating for me, and I think goes a LONG LONG way to keeping too much conflict from our churches. 


Now, as long as sinners keep on getting together, conflict is going to happen.  That's a given until Jesus comes and rescues us from our mess!  But if we can, instead of hiding from our sins, look them in the face, in light of our identity in Christ (fully righteous and forgiven), confess those sins, ask for forgiveness and be forgiven, we will go far in preserving the peace and purity of the church.


It all comes back to the gospel.  It comes back to knowing who we are, sinners and yet at the same time justified.  It comes back to being able to forgive because we ourselves have been so forgiven.
Surprised?


Questions? Comments?  I know I cannot touch on every angle here, but would love to have a dialog on these issues. 


NOTE:  I am not an expert on all these issues.  Tomes have been written on most of these topics.  I'm writing these posts from the perspective of a lay person and wife of a pastor, and based on my own experiences.

1 comment:

  1. Confessing to others - asking forgiveness - still always seems like such a big deal to me! (Oh, dear me, I am so proud.)

    Thanks for pointing us back to the gospel.

    ReplyDelete

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