Thursday, June 28, 2012

Difficult Conversations

Tuesday, June 27, 2012
Scripture Reading—II Corinthians 7:2-16

 The church is not perfect.  I know that may come as a shock to some of us.  But on occasion, I have heard that people get upset in churches about one thing or another.  I have heard that sometimes people get their feelings hurt, and that sometimes, because of some disagreement people leave a church.  These tensions are often over profound theological issues like what color carpet to put in a parlor or who gets to decide the placement of the furniture in a sanctuary.  Seriously, though, conflict in the church can be painful and sometimes disillusioning.  This passage in II Corinthians gives us a window into a painful disagreement in one of the churches Paul founded, loved, and had a long-standing relationship with—Corinth.  Apparently some person had tried to undermine Paul’s message and this had caused confusion in the church at Corinth.  Some people had questioned Paul’s authenticity as an apostle and had begun to wonder about the truth of his message.  This hurt Paul.  It made him angry.  And so he sent a letter to set the record straight (and to try to set the church at Corinth straight) by Titus, who had come back to Paul with a report that his straight talk had led to genuine sorrow on the part of Paul’s friends in Corinth and that their sorrow had led to repentance and a healing of the relationship Paul had once enjoyed with the Christians in Corinth.  There is an important lesson here for our relationships within the church—and all of our human relationships.  Unfortunately, we can say and do things that hurt, wound, and offend others—and vice-versa.  That is part of our human condition.  The test for Christians, though, is what happens afterward.  Paul shows us one way forward:  instead of talking about people behind their backs or withdrawing from situations where we’ve been hurt, we need to learn to speak frankly to the person who has offended us so that restoration can occur.  Part of what it means to be a Christian is to be learning to be a person who stays in relationship with those who’ve hurt us. Naming the problem, not in anger or judgment, but with honesty and compassion is often the first step to regaining a friendship that otherwise might be lost forever. 

Thought for the day:  When we’ve been hurt or offended by someone else, healing can begin if we refuse to gossip, backbite, and name call and instead, speak candidly to the person responsible for the hurt, with the hopeful expectation that the relationship can be healed and a friend regained.

 Prayer:  O God, when I am wronged by a friend, especially a Christian friend, give me the grace to honestly pray and work for reconciliation so that precious relationships can be restored and harmony returned to the body of Christ.  Amen. 

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