“Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it.”
(1 Corinthians 11:17-18)
“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:18)
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
We are living in a very contentious time right now in our country, full of strife and disagreements. Arguments are being made discussing what is true, what can be trusted, what can be believed. Many of you reached out to me after watching the violence of the events of January 6th and expressed fear, outrage, and confusion about the future of our country. “Where is God in all of this?” This was one of the questions posed to me and this became part of my prayer life leading up to the inauguration on January 20th in our nation’s capital.
The verses that I included at the top of the page speak to the inevitability of conflict between people in a community, but also about the choices made by each of us which will then heighten the conflict into combat or lead to a different outcome. God is always present in our daily lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, even when things look bleak and hopeless. We are part of the body of Christ, and as such are called to live as a new creation. Part of living this new reality is the realization that it is Christ who defines us, His death and resurrection are what bring life abundantly and eternally in God’s reign. Our political party affiliations, our voting preferences, our assumptions about others who do not share our same points of view or opinions cannot have the last word. God has the last word, in the cross and empty tomb of Jesus Christ. That is the good news that we are privileged to share with a broken and hurting world.
One of the phrases that my bishop in Nebraska taught me was that “Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.” The truth of the matter is that our words and our actions matter. Every week at Christ the King we answer the question of what is our mission with these words: “To shine the light of Jesus, reflect his unconditional love, and mirror his kindness to all people.” As we live out this mission with each other I have a helpful acronym focusing on the need to respect ourselves and others as we build relationships and foster the beloved community God is creating in and through us.
R – Responsibility for what we say.
E – Empathetic listening skills.
S – Sensitive to different communication styles.
P – Ponder what you hear and feel before you speak.
E –Examine your own assumptions and perceptions.
C- Confidentiality is kept.
T- Trust ambiguity, knowing that we are not only here to debate who is right or wrong.
Living in God’s amazing grace,
Pastor Matthew Groenke