I want to thank the CL staff and contributors of the November/December 2022 issue (When we disagree) for focusing on conflict resolution. The articles presented biblically founded and practical steps for those facing rivalries and relational differences.
This focus is especially timely for us as Mennonite Brethren. For decades now I have heard comments mixed with a bit of irony from some who say, “You would think we as Mennonite Brethren would do better at personal relationships and dealing with church conflicts given our adherence to the peace position.” Yes, one would think so!
Of course, I cannot say much about other Mennonite Brethren without first looking at my own life. As a former MB missionary and pastor schooled in MB churches and higher education, I often taught about conflict resolution and how to deal with disagreements, but tragically, many times I was guilty of not living what I was teaching.
In a recent article on conflict resolution, I wrote, “For much of my walk with Jesus, I have had serious relational problems, mostly with fellow believers. Sadly, I have authored most of them. But with gratefulness to the Father, I have been reconciled to all my “foes” except for one Spanish brother from our missionary days 25 years ago… There are many stories I could tell you about the blessed results blossoming from these restored relationships, but space will not permit it.”
Three powerful game-changers for me have been:
1) Asking others for forgiveness for my part in any known broken relationship. In the early 90s, I almost suffered a nervous breakdown as a missionary. Anger and resentment were major contributors to this near-emotional blowout. With all thanks to my Mennonite colleagues serving in Northern Spain, I was counseled quite simply to “volver a los pies de Jesús” (return to the feet of Jesus)!
Soon after, I found myself seeking out those on both sides of the Atlantic whom I had offended and asked them to forgive me. I still relish the mercy and forgiveness I received both from God and from those I had hurt when I asked them to forgive me.
Equally vital was forgiving those who had hurt me in life. Much spiritual power is unleashed when we forgive and ask for forgiveness from our hearts
2) Understanding God’s love for me and then learning to live in that reality. This has been transformational and a necessary starting point for loving others, especially in the midst of conflict.
Jesus’ “I-am-giving-you-a-new-commandment” text found in John 13:34-35 has been eye-opening. Now I understand why Jesus calls this commandment “new” and why it is necessary for fulfilling the Great Commandment.
Heeding Paul’s call in Ephesians 3:17-19 to be rooted in God’s love, understand God’s love, and incarnate God’s love in all human relationships, has also brought greater emotional and relational health to my life. We cannot give what we haven’t received. I later wrote about this in https://christianleadermag.com/living-well-by-loving-well/.
3) Believing my true identity is found in Christ alone. When we understand that “we are accepted, secure, and significant in Christ,” to borrow a phrase from the Freedom in Christ discipleship materials, and then live in that blessed reality, healthier human relationships tend to follow.
In summary, asking, understanding and believing have better positioned me to consider the additional steps to conflict resolution mentioned in the latest Christian Leader. The counsel of our contributors will take on a more powerful dimension in my call to love God, myself and others better, especially in seasons of conflict.
This article has been posted by Christian Leader staff. The Christian Leader is the magazine of U.S. Mennonite Brethren.