CONQUER CONFLICT WITH FORGIVENESS
Possibly one of the greatest causes of dissension in the church, conflict can separate and destroy relationships. The Bible mentions multiple examples of conflict – Saul and David, Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Peter, the Hebrews and the Hellenists.
Conflict can isolate and offend, but it can also grow us in character. For example, David learnt to trust God despite his persecution at the hands of King Saul, and Esther, challenged by Mordecai, rose up to petition King Ahasuerus on behalf of God’s people in “such a time as this“. Why is there conflict within the church? Well, we all have the same Spirit within us and we may all love God, but human nature still exists in this world, and disagreements are inevitable.
However, we have the means to overcome – forgiveness. Where there is challenge, we need humility to repent and grow in character. Where there is conflict, we need to choose forgiveness. David left judgement of Saul’s actions in the hands of God, choosing instead to honour Saul as the current king, and refusing to lay hands on “the Lord’s annointed”. When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sinned against him, Jesus answered,
“…I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven..” – [Matthew 18:22]
Jesus then tells the parable of the unforgiving servant, concluding that judgement will be delivered to us if “each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” [Mathew 18:35]
The Bible tells us to actively forgive, to actively seek reconciliation where possible, and to leave judgement in the hands of God.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – [Romans 12: 14, 17-18, 21]
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – [Matthew 5:23-24]
Do not let conflict in the church leave you resentful in unforgiveness. Choose to forgive, seek reconciliation whenever possible, and remember – it was Christ who first forgave us, Christ who forgives his church time and time again. If Christ forgives His church when she is at conflict with Him, how much more should we also forgive her, and forgive one another.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” – [Ephesians 4:31-32]