by Kevin Wiebe
Some people might describe me as a little bit particular. Okay, maybe more than just a bit. I am someone who likes to have things in order. I don’t like chaos, discord, or things left undone. When it comes to relationships, one of the things that has a tendency to cause me the most pain is when there are relationships in conflict where reconciliation has yet to happen and there is no clear path forward to restoration.
The Apostle Paul writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18 NIV). This message puts a great deal of responsibility on each individual to do what they can to live at peace. It also offers a healthy dose of realism, reminding us that not all things will depend on us.
This is where I get myself in trouble and make my own life needlessly difficult. I sometimes act as if it does all depend on me. I have a tendency to take on responsibility that isn’t mine to carry. So, when I experience a breakdown in relationship that had nothing to do with me, I have typically taken it very hard. Maybe the root of the issue was another person’s addiction, maybe it was their toxic or abusive behaviour, maybe their simple choice to fuel hatred instead of harmony. Whatever the case, we ought to expect there to be times when peace between us and others does not depend on us.
The expectation that I can fix everything or that it all depends on me is just plain unhealthy and wrong. Yet for some reason I find it hard to dispel such damaging expectations. Perhaps you feel the same way and can’t stand when things aren’t perfect.
In the Gospels we read about the very first communion service. This moment inaugurated a tradition that would continue to this day. It was a holy moment where the disciples of Jesus communed with one another and even with God in the flesh. Surely, such a moment that would have such an impact on the Church could be as perfect as a moment could be.
Surely such a time, with God being present in person, would be something holy, sacred, and peaceful. Yet this was not entirely the case. Jesus was about to be betrayed, abandoned, suffer through a rigged trial and ultimately be tortured and murdered alongside criminals. Jesus knew this was to come, and his betrayer was even in the room with him.
If this sacred moment had such treachery hanging over it like a cloud, and yet could impact the church for millennia, then surely when we experience conflict and discord it doesn’t mean we can’t still experience something meaningful and lasting with God. Perhaps you, like me, need to learn that after we do whatever we can to live at peace with others, there may still be no peace between us and them—but we should not let that ruin the communion we can still experience with our Lord.
Editor’s Note: To assist congregations in tough conversations, the Board of Church Ministries has approved a regular column by Kevin Wiebe, a BCM member. Kevin is the senior pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship, which meets in Stevenson, Ont. He has a BA in Communication and Media Studies (Providence) and a Certificate in Conflict Management and Congregational Leadership (Conrad Grebel).