A Modest Proposal For The Development Of Godly Conflict Resolution Within The Church Of God

For anyone who is knowledgeable in the denominational history of the Church of God from its beginnings, at the very least in the 20th century, the theme of conflict is a frequent and lamentable matter [1].  This conflict exists on several levels, some of them unavoidable and some of them deeply tragic:  conflict between the ways of God and the sinful traditions of mankind, conflicts between different approaches, different interpretations, conflict between perceived duties with regards to truth and with regards to other people, conflicts between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, conflict over matters of doctrine, matters of liturgy, matters of discipline, politics, and nearly everything else imaginable.  Yet it is not that the conflict is often at such a high level that no peace is possible, but that we are so ill-equipped to live in peace that the relatively small conflicts we have among us, the narcissism of small differences, are beyond our ability to dwell peacefully and act respectfully towards each other.  And that is something we can–and should–do something about.

I feel it necessary to point out that I say this not as someone who has by any means mastered the art of being a peace maker.  Far from it.  Few people are more conscious, and more embarrassed, about the omnipresent difficulties I face in conflict management with other people.  My difficulties in being able to restore positive relationships with those whom I have offended, whether by deed or (more often) by what I have written, have long been a source of intense misery and public awkwardness, including some situations where some people deliberately sought me out for confrontation and other situations where others would prefer not to recognize my presence or existence at all.  That many of these disagreements have taken place in the context of church services is all the more lamentable given the fact that Jesus Christ told us that we should be recognized by our love for each other.  Nor am I saying that I have been blameless in these matters–quite the contrary.  I do not wish anything I say on the subject of conflict, or the importance of godly conflict resolution, to imply that I am somehow speaking as an expert.  Quite the reverse is the case–it is my own intense difficulty and struggle with the matter, and my recognition that the struggle is not mine alone, but is a widespread one, gives a greater intensity for my desire that we all, myself included, learn and practice better how to get along with others, and to maintain civility, respect, and love in the face of offense and disagreement, seeing as both of those will occur fairly naturally from being blundering human beings interacting with other blundering human beings.

That said, my modest proposal for the development of godly conflict resolution within the Church of God is, by necessity, a somewhat complex one that exists on multiple levels.  On one level, the easiest, this involves the widespread instruction on biblical principles and biblically based techniques in successfully managing conflicts on the lowest level, and in encouraging and instructing others on how to serve as good faith and just witnesses, mediators, and arbiters of conflict who are able to preserve relationships and reduce the tensions between others.  Given the fact that significant and major conflicts exist, to the point where people find it impossible to fellowship with others, or act even with the most minimal courtesy towards others of the same belief and practice on a regular basis, and given the fact that this reality requires a great deal of time of members and ministry within the Church of God–I speak from experience–it behooves us to be better familiar with knowledge on how we can be people of peace, regardless of what other people do and how other people behave.

Beyond the mere intellectual knowledge, though, we need to see examples of godly conflict resolution.  Given the ubiquity of the conflicts that exist among us, there are many areas where the witness of godly conflict resolution would be useful–to see people act in such ways that estranged spouses are able to  overcome their behaviors that are causing division within their marriages, and are able to forgive the wrongs their spouses have committed when those wrongs have been repented of and the behavior has changed, how parents and children are able to come to terms, with abuses and difficulties openly acknowledged and repented of, where friends and lovers are able to come to terms with the ways that enmity has built up and overwhelmed the spirit of fellowship and amity that we are supposed to have with others, and how brethren and ministers are able to come to grips with differences of opinion that are maintained with a sense of mutual respect, admiration, and love, rather than being seen as excuses to behave in an undignified and disrespectful and contemptuous fashion.  Clearly all of us, myself more than most, could use such positive examples as we seek to provide a better example to others in our own behavior in our inevitable contretemps.

In order to better provide that instruction in both the intellectual and practical elements of conflict management, some institution building would be worthwhile.  These efforts would include the building of programs of formal instruction and guidelines in peacemaking efforts, the training and recognition of those whose combination of spiritual and emotional maturity so that there can be well-prepared people who are able to serve as good faith emissaries where conflict exists, and whose regular example of peacemaking is able to encourage and inspire others.  Having formal procedures for peacemaking in such a way that the dignity and concerns of all parties involved in a conflict are honored, and where sufficient time is taken to address the deep concerns and interests so that everyone feels the process is fair and is able to respect whatever outcome happens in a given conflict or dispute, is a demanding goal, certainly among the more immodest proposals that could be wished, but given our widespread failure as a culture in resolving conflicts in a godly fashion and in preserving relationships in the face of disagreement and past mistakes, clearly we have a lot of room for improvement.  Let us resolve ourselves to improve in these matters, individually and collectively.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/on-the-bi-directional-feedback-of-culture-and-membership-in-the-20th-and-21st-century-experience-of-the-church-of-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/those-who-are-dead-are-not-dead-theyre-just-living-in-my-head/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/borne-back-ceaselessly-into-the-past/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/11/26/book-review-early-writings-of-herbert-w-armstrong/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, History, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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