Conflict and disagreement are a part of life. I must admit however that I am not comfortable in conflict situations. I prefer peace to the tense environment of conflict. However, we all know that God made so many varieties of human beings that it is impossible that we will avoid differences of opinion. Sometimes difference of opinion escalates to the point that disagreement can occur and conflict and words and actions that are offensive can result.
What must we do when this occurs?
As Christians we need to step back from conflict and seek and give forgiveness. Bingham Hunter* states “Hostility and an unforgiving spirit are acids which destroy our capacity to worship and pray. When sin and discord exist between Christians, God is troubled…hostility between believers hinders acceptable praise and worship” [Hunter, 147].
It is pretty obvious what Jesus feels on this subject. In the Sermon on the Mount, He relates that if you are offering a gift at the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift on the front of the altar. First go and reconcile to your brother and then offer your gift.
Obviously interpersonal reconciliation is more important than worship; worship offered before reconciliation is unacceptable to God. In Ephesians 4: 30-31, it says “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
We need to know that God expects us to be kind and compassionate toward one another, forgiving each other, just as God has forgiven each of us. Bingham Hunter’s book is all about prayer and it takes a long, in-depth look at something that some Christians take for granted, others struggle with and still others neglect prayer except for rote prayer that we learn in going to church. As we leave chapter 11 on prayers for forgiveness, it is important to note that an unforgiving heart will kill prayer. We need to learn to forgive.
If we obey God’s admonitions to forgive we can begin to know the mind of God, we can even begin to pray according to His will. If we do not obey God and forgive, we grow distant from God. We have trouble knowing His will and praying according to it.
Sometimes as I have read and commented on this book on prayer, I realize that I have fallen short on many of the topics of concern. I am not one who engages in enough thankful prayer; I have been chastened and I don’t know how to pray the prayer of the chastened disciple. My intercessory prayer is sometimes weak and half-hearted and yes I have harbored hurt in the past. I have to admit however, as I have gotten older I don’t have negative feelings toward others much anymore. I do remember holding grudges and negative feelings for others over long periods of time in my younger days. Maybe I have grown to accept that differences will occur and I try harder to understand other peoples’ positions.
When it comes to falling short, Hunter’s closing words of chapter 11 are worth quoting. “Thankfully, our God is a loving and forgiving Father—even when His children are neither. I’ve said what I’ve said …to motivate you to love and to encourage and to forgive. My purpose is not to crush or accuse. God hears the prayer of those who struggle to do His will. If you have been unloving or know you should seek reconciliation or grant forgiveness, ask Him for the Spirit’s help, and by faith try to be obedient to His word. It is not easy. But the freedom and liberty which comes in worship and prayer when we get rid of such clutter in our spiritual lives is definitely worth the cost” .
Author of The God Who Hears