Disagreement, Conflict and Unity
The build-up to the UK Referendum on EU membership has revealed a level of nasty rhetoric on both sides of the campaign. The murder of MP Jo Cox has uncovered the depth of animosity hiding below the usual British veneer of calm.
The US Presidential election process has revealed a level of division that plays out like some reality TV shows.
Are we able to find a way to discuss, debate and settle our deliberations in public life (in the public square) through reasoned persuasion: free of coercion, fear, force, intimidation, manipulation?
Are we able to make decisions based on access to information, to truth, to unbiased research?
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23
Jesus’ prayer is a prophetic call for us to reflect the oneness we see in the Trinity. A unity that demonstrates love and shalom. We were created to be in harmonious relationship with God, with one another and with creation.
Reality Check: Over 40,000 denominations and many more expressions of church, often competing, sometimes complementing, all claiming they have the clear understanding of Scripture. We sometimes see leadership taking the position of power rather than service; using manipulation to forward their own agendas rather than God’s agenda.
Conflict before the Fall: It is interesting to note that God commands Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 to “subdue” the earth before the Fall in Genesis 3. Subdue can mean to overcome, gain order and control, or put down a rebellion. Why say this before the Fall? Could it be that the rebellion of Satan and the Principalities and Powers were already seeking to steal, kill, divide, destroy (John 10:10) and so God was calling them to be on guard?
Avoiding Conflict: Eve initially challenged the serpent, but was swayed by the discussion. I have often wondered why Adam did not argue with the serpent or with Eve on eating the forbidden fruit; after all, the command to not eat this fruit was given directly to him by God. Could it be that he avoided conflict and dialogue? Certainly by the time God came to them both, they were into the 'blame game': blaming someone else.
Conflict and disagreements are not in themselves wrong. Indeed, we need to have robust dialogue in order to let truth be made known to all.
Ephesians 4:25-26 calls us to speak truth and to not avoid conflict as this gives Satan a foothold, allowing bitterness and nasty undermining attitudes and actions to develop.
Shalom means facing the conflict with straightforwardness, integrity and love. It means uncovering the truth. It means we need to work it out together rather than allowing Satan to have a foothold, remembering that our real battle is not with each other but with Principalities and Powers (Eph 6:10-17).
The way we work through conflict reveals the Good News of Jesus.
Taking this now to the public square will require us to be secure in our identity before God. We need to ensure we get all aspects of our identity from being rooted in Jesus. Our worth, our value, our sense of purpose and calling, and our sense of being loved must come from him, so that when we are speaking truth, shining light into areas of darkness, we will be able to stand secure. Then the world will know we are in Jesus.
Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keeping on praying for all the saints. (Eph 6:18).
Pray for the unity of believers.
I thank God for all our members in Micah, for our unity around integral mission. I invite us all into healthy dialogue, even in our disagreements, to work through our conflicts and seek unity so that the world may know Jesus through our lives.