Sadly, conflict in the church is nothing new. One need only witness how many times conflict is addressed in the New Testament writings to see that this scourge is as old as Cain and as fresh as last Sunday’s gathering.
The scripture makes clear that God’s deep desire is for His people to live in unity, peace and love. As many of the Ten Commandments have to do with how we treat others as how we relate to God, Himself. John clearly states that if we say we love God and hate our brother, we have deceived ourselves. And Jesus’ final recorded prayer before His journey to the cross states quite clearly His desire that His followers be one with each other, as He is one with the Father.
It is my firm conviction that our hearts are hardened toward God in direct proportion to our hardness toward others. This is why the Lord tells us to leave our gift at the altar and go and be reconciled with anyone who holds something against us. He does not want us to go through the motions of worship with a hardened heart.
But there is also a reality that while forgiveness is something that we can do unilaterally (even to the point of forgiving someone who has already died and therefore cannot ask our pardon), reconciliation is something that requires the willingness of both parties, so is often more difficult to achieve. There will be times when we pray for someone who has a heaviness of heart because they desire reconciliation with someone who is not willing, at this point, to be reconciled.
For these situations we can pray:
1. That the Lord will continue to make them open hearted and willing to be reconciled as they wait for God to work on the heart of the other person.
2. That God would give the us/them deep, agape’ love for this individual.
3. That the Lord will work to soften the heart of the reluctant one, bringing conviction, if necessary.
4. That the we/they will be persistent in prayer over the situation, and not grow weary while waiting on God to work.
5. That God will provide opportunities to show love to the other person.
6. That the Lord will give courage if we/they need to confess any fault of their own or confront the other person.
7. That any confrontation will be done in love and humility.
8. That God will send a mediator, if that would be the key to resolving the conflict.
9. That God would give insight into other issues in the life of the other person that might be at work in the conflict that have nothing to do with the petitioner.
10. That this experience will help the us/them to grow in grace.
It is difficult to go through life, sometimes even to make it through the day, without some form of conflict. James 4:1 says: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? And, indeed, our desires and the desires of others will diverge, regularly—whether that is over the use of the TV remote, or the color of the church refrigerator.
Why doesn’t God just supernaturally give us a spiritual unity of mind? I think part of it is He wants us to exercise the choice to die to self, to be humble with one another, to make the choice to submit our desires to our spiritual siblings in a way that shows we are dying to ourselves, and preferring one another in sacrificial love. Dealing with conflicting desires helps us to learn to grow in grace in ways we never have to broach if we are always in agreement with one another.
As you examine your life and your relationships ask the Lord to show you:
1. If there is anyone who has an offense against you, to whom you need to go and make the first overture for reconciliation.
2. If there is anyone who has offended you and toward whom you have hardened your heart.
3. If there is a relationship of your own, or one you are aware of, that needs more consistent prayer until reconciliation is achieved.
4. If there is a relationship you know of where you could be used of God as a catalyst for reconciliation.
5. If true reconciliation is not possible because the person is not “safe”, that you would still be able to love in Christ, grow in grace, and see them through the eyes of the Lord.
More ways to pray:
1. May the Lord make our congregation a place of reconciliation.
2. May the Lord bring conviction on those who are living with unreconciled relationships, and move them to make these right.
3. May the Lord move leadership to seek to be mediators of reconciliation in relationships that are under strain or estranged.
4. May the Lord show us how important it is to Him that His people be in unity with one another, desiring to honor Him in our treatment of one another.
5. May we become more and more aware of what the scriptures teach about reconciliation and resolving conflict biblically and live according to His revealed will.
6. May the Lord grant boldness in obedience to His commands in the area of reconciliation and restoration of relationships, not giving in to fear.
7. May He help us to be humble enough to submit to one another appropriately, rather than to insist on our own way at every turn.
8. May we see conflicts as opportunities to grow in grace.
9. May we be a people who are not touchy and do not easily take offense.
10. May we be a people who keep short accounts.
11. May we be a people who desire to be reconciled more than we desire to be proven right.
12. May we be a people who pray for relationships to be reconciled, and pray for relationships before they get to the point they need to be reconciled.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries