The couples had been friends for years. They met in church and their common belief was their main glue. Being involved in the church gave them a reason to get together regularly. Tom and Jenny, Dave and Ada (not real their real names) had found support, encouragement, common interests, children who played together well . . . lots of reasons generated a closeness that they enjoyed.
So when changes in worship, policy and expenditure of budget occurred, it caused Dave and Ada to cautiously begin to question whether they liked what was happening. Times spent with Tom and Jenny were filled with discussions about the changes and attitudes in the congregation. Tom and Jenny liked what was happening, but their friends were skeptical. Eventually, their discussions became disagreements, and eventually their friendship came to an end.
These couples were representative of what was happening throughout the church family. Some were excited while long time friends and acquaintances disagreed and it became divisive across the church body
Whether two individuals, two couples or two factions dividing an entire congregation, the eventual result will either be division or they will have to find a way to forgive differences to go forward. So how can they forgive?
What does it mean to forgive?
- Responding to remorse — One kind of forgiveness occurs when there is remorse and forgiveness is asked for. This is a time when it’s easy to forgive.
- Letting go — Another kind of forgiveness is when the offended lets go of the offense and moves forward. Letting go without having seen remorse is difficult to do.
- Putting the response in God’s hands — This is very hard to do, because much like letting go, putting the situation and the offender(s) in God’s hands means the offended party doesn’t get the satisfaction of knowing that “justice” is done when there is no regret for the offense to begin with.
When there is conflict regarding opinions in church, each side justifies itself with the conviction that they are doing “God’s will.” It seems to me that the obvious problem with this is that God doesn’t want his church in conflict or turmoil. (God really does get blamed for a lot of our opinions, doesn’t He!?) So why the anger that boils up, and what gets in the way of moving forward as a church body?
The ugly side of conflict is the anger that erupts. It’s because anger is comforting. The adrenaline that floods our body is like a chemical addiction because we feel energized and powerful. It results in the justification of our “side” of the difference and allows us to rationalize behavior that usually isn’t acceptable in God’s way of doing things.
There is so much to be said about the effects of anger to the offended (frequently both sides claim to be the offended and the blame that results ramps up the conflict to a more intense level.) While there are volumes that can be said about anger and forgiveness, for now let me share some thoughts about the benefits of forgiveness
- The freedom of forgiveness — Jesus told us it is not our responsibility to judge or seek revenge. I frequently find that thought liberating. Sometimes it is frustrating . . . usually when I’ve been offended, and I’m right. The freedom of placing it in God’s hands allows me to not worry about fixing everything, mainly because I can’t since I don’t always get it fixed right. Very often, my right and God’s right are two different things and I’d rather have it God’s right.
- Becoming the better person — Taking the “high road” instead of lowering yourself to a level that would be embarrassing is important to our self-confidence and personal values. The difficulty in making the decision to take the high road in relationships is exponentially increased by anger. Decide to let it go!
- Enjoying the respect of others — and the friendships that have been meaningful, even in the face of disagreements, adds to our quality of life.
So, how does one make the right decision to let go and move on when anger crops up and takes over our defensiveness?
- WWJD? — I’m honestly not a big fan of the WWJD craze. Mainly because I don’t know if I’m capable of doing what Jesus would do. I think if the reason for asking yourself, “WWJD,” is that it would help you decide what Jesus would want you to do, then ask the question about the situation.
- Is my opinion more important than the church? — Value cautiously whether your opinion is most important
- Is being right what is driving you — Being right is not always the best thing for all involved. Maybe letting go is the best course of action.
Think it through before your opinion ruins the friendship or fellowship of God’s church.
Thoughts, questions, comments? Share them in the comments box. Thanks!