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If you are a Christian and that other person is also in the body of Christ, the onus is on you to resolve the conflict. There must not be a hairline crack in the body of Christ. If there is, it won’t be long before your small fissure turns into something more substantial, which could be irreparable. Paul talked about this idea when he wrote in Romans.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).
He shared this thought with the Corinthians, too, in 1 Corinthians 11:29, where he tied conflict to the communion table. Paul was admonishing the Corinthians for their unwillingness to resolve the disputes in their relationships. He centered his argument on nothing less than the violent death of Christ, the gospel—how remarkably profound.
I imagine when a believer has a conflict with another Christian, they do not consider how the bread and wine should be their primary motivation for working through the differences. When you frame your disagreement in the light of that gospel message, it does intensify the need to do all that depends on you to rectify it.
Paul says that when you come together for communion, you must “discern the body.” In context, he was speaking of the local expression of the body of Christ, which is the local church. He was telling the Corinthians that they must think about how they are interrelating with each other (discerning the body) when they come together, which is calling into remembrance Christ’s violent death.
There was a division in the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 11:18), and when they gathered for communion, it was as though the death of Christ was not vital to them. They were sweeping their interpersonal relationships under the proverbial rug. Paul told his friends that God would judge them for this (1 Corinthians 11:29).
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part (1 Corinthians 11:18).
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Corinthians 11:29).
You must not ignore conflict and division, as though it does not exist. You can apply Paul’s use of “discern the body” to mean more than your local church because all believers make up the body of Christ. It would be odd to say that “discerning the body” does not include the whole body of Christ. How are you doing with your believing family members, extended relatives, and other friends who name the name of Christ?
The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of believers “participating in the body of Christ” as they celebrate Christ’s death. When there is unity within His body, you will see and experience the health of the whole body. It is like two cells actively living in a human body. Those two cells must participate in harmony, or there will be a disease and the body will divide.
If the lack of health is unattended, it could be eventual death to that body. From the spiritual perspective, if two believers are not living in harmony with each other, their participation in Christ’s body will wreak havoc on the body of Christ.
With this perspective in mind, it causes you to wonder about the health of the body of Christ the way some believers talk to others online. It is as they disassociate what they do online as though it’s a select category that permits complaining, grumbling, gossip, slander, and more. Will you scroll through a few of your more recent comments online to see what they reveal about your heart toward your brothers and sisters? Are you the cause of body healing or body division?
Let’s bring the discussion back to the real world, though you must never dichotomize how you talk in real space and cyberspace. One of the ways I like to illustrate if a conflict exists is by asking the believer to go to another believer and offer him the bread and the wine. Will you put the cup to the lips of any believer, fellow body-member? If you struggle with me, can you put the cup to my lips with a Christocentric attitude?
Can you two believers partake of the bread and wine together? Is there anything that would prohibit you from having communion with another Christian? If two brothers or sisters cannot participate together in the Lord’s Supper, they must do all that is dependent on each other to resolve the conflict.
To eat and drink at the table is to remember that the grace you have received from Christ is what you must offer to others who were just as unlovable as you once were. Communion is a reminder of the unmerited favor you received through the gospel. Minimally, you must be willing to offer a similar kind of grace to any believer. Pardon the redundancy, but there must not be any divisions in the body of Christ.
If your first response to the communion-relationship puzzle with someone is excuse-making, you’re in the wrong spot. I’m aware that there are exceptions in some relationships that you have to work through, but that is not where you want to begin the diagnosis. The humble, first response has to be,
Wow! I love this perspective, and I want to examine my heart to see if there is any iniquity in my heart. It’s not my brother, oh, Lord, but it’s me. I stand in need of prayer.
The “log” is always the “first stop” in conflict resolution. I do want you to pause at this moment to examine how you have reacted in your heart to what you’ve read thus far. You don’t want to blow by the “log” in your eye socket while fixating on the “speck” in the other person (Matthew 7:3-5). I see this mistake happening in social media all the time.
For example, if I post an article or graphic about anger and our need to examine ourselves, without exception, someone will talk about the righteous side of anger. It is as though these reactors cannot help themselves. Rather than sticking to the point and focusing on the context, they start with the caveats. Do not do this. There is a time and place to talk about the nuances and exceptions to your relationship problems but not without proper self-examination.
It is not possible to resolve all of the conflicts in your relationships. This truth is what makes Romans 12:18 so rewarding. Paul said, “As much as it depends on you.” His point is clear; there is only so much you can do when another person is part of the problem. Some things depend on you, and there are other things that they must do if there is going to be a resolution.
I have written on conflict resolution. If you need to take a deeper dive into this subject, please go to our Topical Index page and look under the “relationships” category. You may study for weeks if you wish. Though you need insight into how to help another person with whom there is a struggle, today’s fundamental idea is what depends on you.
Perhaps your combatant is unwilling to “transact forgiveness” with you, but that should never hinder you from having a heart of forgiveness toward them. The difference between transactional and attitudinal forgiveness is that the former requires both to participate while the latter only needs you. You can have a “heart of forgiveness” toward anyone regardless of whether you restore the relationship.
Because of sin, it’s not realistic to expect all relationships to live in harmony. There are some people in your life where you will always live with that hairline fracture. Some of these relationships may have a broader fissure; it’s more like a ravine. My daddy was like this. He died before either of us got a clue. The Lord saved me six years after his passing. We could not reconcile for three reasons.
In this situation, the only way for us to reconcile would be both of us knowing Christ and pursuing each other until reconciliation was complete. Since that cannot happen, it’s on me to do as much as “depends on me” to be at peace. Thus, I can forgive him “in my heart,” which is attitudinal forgiveness. I wrote about that process here. If you are doing everything that you can do but the relationship continues unresolved, I appeal to you to read that article plus this one on pre-forgiveness.