Several years ago, I was having a conversation with my pastor. We were working together on a new thing our church was trying to get off the ground. The change it would bring was causing some conflict in the congregation. He was concerned that this might cause division in the church. So, he suggested an alternative that he admitted would not be as effective, but might cause less discord.
I was not nearly as concerned. In fact, I remember saying something like, “I don’t think God is that troubled about conflict in the church.” And just for good measure I threw in a couple of vague Scripture references to back up my claim.
To my pastor’s credit he received my remarks, acknowledged my “hand-picked” Bible passages could be interpreted as such, and that sometimes “conflict” in the church was needed to fulfill God’s purpose. However, I could tell from his look that he didn’t feel this was such a time.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NRSV)
I still believe there are times when living into God’s preferred future will cause conflict. I need to look no further than the conflict that arises in me when God is calling me to do something that will bring deep change to my thinking and actions.
But I also believe that the words of Scripture from 2 Corinthians above, and others in the Bible, clearly state that as a person reconciled to God, by God, through Christ… I’m called to be a reconciler and peacemaker. I’m called to a “ministry of reconciliation” and so are you.
As Tish Harrison-Warren shares in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary, reconciliation is hard work! And that may be especially true in our culture where conflict and division seem to “just be the way things are.” Conflict and resentment seem the easier route and probably a whole lot less humiliating.
So, I encourage you to start small. Extend kindness to someone with whom you disagree. Maybe that means just not harming the person you’re in conflict with. Perhaps that will open the way up for you to be the one who’ll take the first courageous step of reconciliation.
Warren goes on to say that it takes faith to believe that our small every day efforts to bring the peace of Christ to someone will bear any fruit. And it takes faith to believe that through repentance and reconciliation God is making us into people capable of saying to the world through our small, ordinary actions, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!
I say, let there be such faith!