Whenever you have people gathered in community, you will have differences — in families, work places, towns, congregations, synods. Paul describes the church, in 1 Corinthians 12:13, by saying that the body needs differences in order to be whole. However, he also knew that living with differences can be challenging.
Conflict and arguments are to be expected; it’s human nature. But how can we handle conflict within the Christian community?
Before replying to a particularly uncomfortable e-mail, it’s a good idea to walk away, take a little time, and edit your first response, before hitting the reply button.
Anyone who works with young children knows that when they’re fighting over something terribly important (in their young minds, anyway), all it often takes is a momentary time out and a forced hand shake to break the ice, add some calm and restore a friendship.
Counting to 10 in a tough situation might provide the time needed to restore rational thinking.
When life’s situations seem too much to bear, a conversation with a good friend or trusted colleague provides an invaluable respite and perspective.
How about a chat with God? Sometimes we people of faith fail to utilize the best tools in our toolbox for dealing with challenging times: devotion and prayer.
Many are able, in any situation, to pray openly and actively. Some of us, even long-time Christians, are sadly uncomfortable with creating our own prayers and moments of devotion.
So, through the ages, texts for meditations and prayer have been provided.
Here are a few psalms and prayers that may be used in challenging situations. Whether you use the prayers as they appear or use them as models from which you adapt your own prayers, don’t forget to allow ample silence for God to speak to you.
Listen quietly, from the depths of your heart. God really is still speaking. God can be that conversation partner you need. Doing so may allow for that extra moment needed for restoration and reconciliation.
Psalm 42:1-3 My soul thirsts for the living God
Psalm 46 God is our refuge and strength
Psalm 77 Seek the Lord in the day of trouble
Psalm 91 The shelter of the Most High
Psalm 140 Deliver me from the hands of the wicked
Lamentations 1:1-3 The city weeps bitterly
Ephesians 2:13-22 Christ is our peace
1 Peter 4:12-13 Enduring fiery trials
God, our refuge and strength, you have bound us together in a common life. In all our conflicts, help us to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, to listen for your voice amid competing claims, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 76)
We pray to you almighty God, in this time of _____. You are our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Do not let us fail in the face of these events. Uphold us with your love, and give us the strength we need. Help us in our confusion, and guide our actions. Heal the hurt, console the bereaved and afflicted, protect the innocent and helpless, and deliver any who are still in peril; for the sake of your great mercy in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship: Pastoral Care 22.214.171.124.)