One of the greatest things about living in community with other Christians is the way I am consistently encouraged to do better and be better than I am. I love seeing God work in other people's lives and hearts, inspiring me to let God do similar work in my life and in my heart.
I have a friend, wonderful, sweet, and gracious, who has recently faced an unexpected measure of interpersonal conflict. She shared this struggle with me, and I was able to encourage her, and inform her just how petty I thought the others involved in this conflict were being. Instead of joining me in dismissing their concerns, however, she expressed a desire to at least try to address the things they had brought up to her. She wanted to make an effort, to potentially open doors for future communication, future congeniality between herself and these others who had hurt her. I jokingly offered to confront them on her behalf (quite the joke given my own avoidance of conflict) and, even as she laughed good-naturedly, she said the most beautiful thing. She said that she had been praying for these people before this happened, and she didn't want to stop now. She knew where they were spiritually, knows that there are still areas where they need God to work in their hearts and lives, and she doesn't want to stop caring and praying about that. She said that when she remembers to pray for them, she isn't as hurt, and she isn't as angry about the conflict.
I find myself so inspired by her heart for these people. How often do I encounter conflict where, rather than praying for the person or people involved, I imagine and practice the confrontation over and over in my mind, stirring up my own emotions, anticipating and expecting the worst. Even if I choose to forget about the conflict, and shove it under the rug, bottling it up or attempting to let it go, it comes back later twice as strong when the same thing crops up again. She has shown me another situation, another opportunity, where prayer is the answer. When we lift others up in prayer, we invite God into the situation and into our hearts and feelings about the circumstances we face and the other individuals involved. When we manage our conflict through prayer, it doesn't mean we don't have to deal with issues or talk things out, but it may help us conquer our emotions and keep ourselves from being ruled by hurt and anger.
I'm learning a lesson in conflict from the members of my community today, what lessons are you learning from yours?
Matthew 5: 43-48
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.