Silver linings

So many good Christians withdraw from active church life because of conflict.

I sympathize with them – it is disillusioning when fellow believers fight.

Yet I believe we can grow as we face up to disagreements.  The key is to learn from these battles – learn to handle differences the Jesus way.

I have wrestled with conflict both in my work life and in my time as a church member and leader.  In each case, I have learned something I could have done better.

As believers, we are called to be truthful, but gentle and kind.  We are to be encouraging and build up people rather than tearing them down.

Jesus was truthful – and even sometimes tough – when dealing with wrongdoing. He rebuked Pharisees who were building themselves up at the expense of the people and leading them away from true worship of God.

But with people who seemed lost, he was gentle, engaging them in conversations and trying to get them to see what the kingdom of God – his loving kingdom – was all about.  He spent time with them, healed them, and loved them.

When his followers argued about who would be greatest among them, Jesus told them firmly what real leadership is all about in his kingdom – serving others.  That is how we Christians should treat each other – not trying to beat down someone who has a different opinion.

The apostle Paul had to deal with angry disputes in the churches he created and visited.  He was adamant on spiritual issues which were fundamental to the Christian faith.  But he counseled the young churches not to fight over personalities or peripheral concerns.

What strikes me about Paul is that he did not give up because of the harsh words – and lies – that were hurled at him.  He felt his mission was too important – to bring people into an everlasting relationship with Jesus.

As for himself, he was convinced that he and the rest of us believers are to become more like Jesus as we navigate the crises of life.  Trouble should make us more like Christ – not less.

So, to pick up on a popular phrase, there are silver linings to the clouds of conflict.

But, we will only see them if we remain active in Christ’s service.

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