Devotional Reading for the Day from the Daily Common Lectionary: II Corinthians 13: 1-13
Text: Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (v. 11)
Nothing is more destructive to the Kingdom of God than a “church fight.” As a matter of fact, Jesus prayed that those who would take Him seriously would be united as “He and the Father were one”. Today’s reading is the third time that the apostle Paul wrote to a conflicted Corinthian community with an appeal to their “better angels”.
There is an African proverb that says that when elephants fight, the grass that gets trampled. When people see a church conflict they wonder “where’s the love”, and say to themselves that “If this is what following Jesus is about, count me out!”
All of this is not to say that there should never be disagreements. That is impossible. I’ve often said that the corollary to Jesus’ promise to be present wherever two or three are gathered in His name, is “wherever two or three are gathered you not only have Jesus but you will have conflict.” Conflict in and of itself is not bad. It just is. Conflict can be constructive or destructive. Destructive conflict tears down and divides. Constructive conflict builds up and strengthens. As followers of Jesus we need to be united in Purpose–doing His work in this world and Pure in our motives–not for our glory but for His. A third element in our life together is that of Peace.
But there is a difference between being a Peace Keeper and a Peace Maker. Peace Keepers want to “paper” over disagreements. They want to avoid conflict at any cost. But this never really works out in the end as people who feel ignored, unheard or unvalued either drift away or unite in destructive behavior. Peace Makers know that we can disagree and still be respectful. They know that through prayer and fasting that we seek the will of God. They know that there is a time for open discussion and a time to make a decision. And they know that when a decision has been reached, we need to trust the Providence of God and get on with the Kingdom’s mission. They don’t second guess, “I-told-you-so” or sabotage.
May God’s love and peace be with you in your life together. Amen.