7. When we disagree

by Rev. Tommy Williams, Senior Pastor

“Two bluebirds on a wooden post” by Victor Benard

“Two bluebirds on a wooden post” by Victor Benard

The holiness of the church is at the center of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. In chapter 6, Paul criticizes lawsuits among believers as a violation of their covenantal life together. Specifically, Paul is addressing those conflicts that could have been settled in the church community but were instead taken to Roman courts for settlement. How do we translate such a teaching today? The issues are complex. 

And yet, I do think there are times when we could bring peace at a personal and micro level among us that would avoid larger entanglements. Verse 7 stings and convicts – “In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.” It is true isn’t it, that when conflict escalates and people get more entrenched, everyone loses? Everyone is negatively impacted when our tensions reach a point when such intervention is needed. 

Paul recounts the saving work of Christ when he reminds the Corinthians and us that we are “washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (verse 11). Once again, Paul takes us back to who we are—our identity with Christ and our belonging to one another. Paul hopes that if he can remind the Corinthians who they are and that they belong to each other, perhaps they will more fervently seek reconciliation among one another.

Again, when Paul writes about peace and reconciliation in this letter, Paul is not addressing “world peace” or reconciliation in a general sense. Paul is speaking to particular individuals in a particular Christian community, calling them to make up with each other! And not just for the sake of harmony but for the sake of their Christian witness in Corinth.

Our relationships with each other in the Christian community matter. I want harmony between persons as much as anyone, and yet there is something more at stake here. How we speak with one another, how we speak about one another, and yes, how we settle disputes with one another is tied to our Christian witness as a community. The world is watching. There are not enough examples of public peacemaking in our world. The church can offer that witness even—and especially—in the midst of disagreements.