Faithlink Discussion: Creative Conflict

by Jacob Juncker

I enjoy conflict.  Its not that I get some perverse pleasure from seeing people or like finding myself in the midst of a conflict, but I find conflict to be a place for growth.  My “knee jerk” reaction in times of conflict is to flee, but I find that if I hold firm and stick around that I learn a lot about myself and the situation.

The church is no stranger to conflict.  We, the Church, find ourselves today debating over a variety of issues: abortion, birth control, the death penalty, evolution, same-sex marriage/unions, living wages, “right” political structures, etc.  To be quite honest, I find myself growing bored with these labored discussions.  These conflicts have split the people of God into camps that seem irreconcilable.  And yet, our faith consists of so much more than these opinionated, divisive discussions.

In, The Character of a Methodist, John Wesley writes:

The distinguishing marks of a Methodist are not his opinions of any sort.  His assenting to this or that scheme of religion, his embracing any particular set of notions, his espousing the judgment of one man or of another, are all quite wide of the point. …as to opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.

Wesley understood that differences of opinion on matters not related to the nature of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as understood through Scripture were inconsequential.  Differences of opinion should not, Wesley thought, split us apart.  I believe that differences of opinion open us up to new understandings of God.

I don’t think the Church has God figured out.  When someone offers a viewpoint that I may not understand or agree with, I must be open to what God might be revealing to me.  God is bigger than my biggest dreams.  God is more than I can imagine.  It would be wrong of me, a finite being, to think that I could grasp all that is God, an Infinite being. 

I think we sometimes get too caught up in our differences of opinion and the conflicts that our opinions can cause.  We get so wrapped up in our point of view that we lose sight of God.  Therefore,

I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that we be in no wise divided among ourselves. Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thine? I ask no farther question. If it be, give me thy hand. For opinions, or terms, let us not destroy the work of God. Dost thou love and serve God? It is enough. I give thee the right hand of fellowship. If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies; let us strive together for the faith of the Gospel; walking worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called; with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; remembering, there is one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called with one hope of our calling; “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

John Wesley, The Character of a Methodist