There is no way around conflict in the local church. In fact, it is only the presence of the Holy Spirit that keeps churches from devouring themselves. Coming from all kinds of backgrounds, with our own dysfunctions and issues, it is the Cross of Jesus that gives us a common bond - which we would not otherwise have. And it is the common Holy Spirit that unites us as members of the family of God.
So why should we be reconciled to one another when there is conflict in the church? We may violently disagree with one another, we may hold grudges against each other. And it is very easy to pick up the offences of others and carry them ourselves. And those we disagree with don't deserve our favor or forgiveness unless they "repent" and choose to agree with us. So why should we be reconciled to each other?
Let me suggest the following reasons to consider. I don't do this lightly as I have been at odds with others in the local church. In fact, I need to do this with great humility. I have had to forgive and be forgiven too many times so this is not a treatise from strength but one from having to face myself too many times. And one from having faced truths from Scripture that I have had to grapple with.
First: We forgive because Jesus chose to forgive us. Ephesians 4:32 says it this way: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." No matter how much animus I have, I cannot get around the fact that Jesus chose to forgive me and therefore commanded me to forgive others.
Such forgiveness is not predicated on the confession of others (and in conflict we are often all guilty in come way). Nor is it predicated on having hashed through all the issues (it is often not possible). What it is predicated on is that Jesus forgave us when we did not deserve it and by implication we are to forgive others even if they do not deserve it (in our view).
I fully believe that Christ will hold us accountable for every unresolved relationship we choose to live with when we see Him. What do we say to the one who bore our sin and failure on Himself and chose to forgive us against the fact we chose not to forgive others? The truth is that we will have no answer in the face of his amazing and unmerited forgiveness of us. How can we not forgive others when we have been the recipient of so much grace?
Second: In church conflict we often do not know the full story. There are always two sides and we often are privy on only one. We need to remember that we only know what we know and frankly we usually don't know the whole story.
Third: Forgiveness and reconciliation do not mean that we need to be best friends with those who we extend it to. It does not mean that we agree with the course of action that was taken. Nor that we must stay in the church.
It does mean that whether we choose to stay after conflict or leave that we do either with a happy heart and a clear conscience based on reconciled relationships and the lack of unfinished business. Living with ongoing animus or anger is both unbiblical (do not let the sun go down on your wrath) and it is a prison of our own making that we live with and that separates us from others. What reconciliation and forgiveness does mean is that we are willing to live at peace with those we had a disagreement with.
TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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