How do we handle conflict or the absence of unconditional, unreserved love among all people of a congregation? With people we sadly know little if anything about except they differ from us. Sadly, habits of the world tend to sneak into the life of a congregations, we favor certain activities over other and the same holds true with people. I don't think there is anything we can do about it, just as I can't do anything about being tempted. But do I act on the temptation? We all have our biases, favorites, or preferences, after all we are to a certain point conditioned by our upbringing, our culture, our gender but do we act exclusively on them, sidelining and overlooking people we feel less drawn to? The family of God is being fractured into camps, like different ministries with little or no overlap or common goals.
There are two common ways I have come across in my years as pastor how that fracturedness is being dealt with. The first way to deal with it is that leadership affirms the presence of a so called camp-mentality and the resulting fracturedness but calls that normal. To be fair, fracturedness in the world is indeed normal, just like irreconcilable differences, but should that also be among us, the members of God's family? Have we become victims of low expectations, augmented reality or simply the loss of the first love? Self-interest and self-preservation can easily entangle us just like any sin for that matter, but are we willing to admit that we perhaps have settled for the mediocrity of the world rather than following Jesus' example?
I think part of the problem is that we do not understand the concept of love apart from us benefiting in some way. The same is true to some degree with the concept of relationship where often both benefit from the friendship between them. I believe we have an anemic incomplete understanding of love. We have spiritualized and ritualized church and its message of unconditional love and reconciliation and taken away the practical application of it for daily life.
Relationship is not a technical part of our lives, like a broken TV we simply replace but the very purpose of our existence as the image of God in the first place. Our humanness depends on relationships. But just like a car needs maintenance and regular check-ups and oil changes and tire rotation all of which cost time and money so do relationships. They too require time and maintenance and at times repairs. How is it that in my experiences we take better care for our material possessions than for our relationships. We even insure them against loss. The purpose of the church is to bring back together people or groups who have been estranged or separated. The purpose of the church is to restore and heal broken relationships between people and God in a tangible way here and now. The church purpose is to be a showcase for restored and healed relationships between people and each other, people and creation, and even the fracturedness we experience within our own self.
|Living life with truth|
That is our message, a gospel that calls every person to believe what Jesus believed, live as he lived, love as he loved, serve as he served, forgive as he forgave, and lead as he led. This is the power moving us to reconciliation, restoring the meaning of love to the church for growth, morality, and ability to once again influence a skeptical and needy world.
I think that taking a step back in order to avoid an escalation of a conflict situation is necessary at time, but how do we take the step back back?
|“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” |
But I believe the Great Commission is about relationships than about the transfer of information and facts about Jesus, Church and the development of doctrines. I don't think that the problem of many churches is a intellectual departure from the orthodox church but an increasing departure from the depth of the application of Jesus' call to follow. We need to remind ourselves that following Jesus, discipleship, is about believing what he believed, living the way he lived, serving the way he served, leading the way he led, and finally loving the way he loved.
Too many have settled for loving those who love us, we are naturally drawn to, we have much in common with not realizing that we have been influenced in our expectation and experiences perhaps more by the world than the story of Jesus' life.
Forgiveness, reconciliation; again we have settled down those who ask for forgiveness, from a position of righteousness. Or we forgive them in our heart in order to be free from anger without them ever benefiting from it. But the forgiveness Jesus gave was based on love, even acknowledging their guilt while maintaining their ignorance as well, he did not set limits on forgiveness either. Irreconcilability is not in his vocabulary and neither should it be in ours.
The need for depth must begin with the church's leader and to that end I pray, that we entrench our lives in the depths of humanity’s brokenness, while hold ourselves accountable to live to a standard worthy of desire.