A topic that is not discussed much in church is conflict between church members and between Christians. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6 about lawsuits among believers in Christ. Paul admonished the Christ followers in Corinth for their lawsuits against one another, suggesting instead to have other believers help settle matters outside of a secular court. I can’t recall a time in my 43 years that I heard a preacher speak on the subject, including my dad. He was a Southern Baptist preacher, but he never preached on that subject – at least not from the pulpit. I also haven’t had a time in my 17+ years of practicing law, nor as my time as a mediator, that pastors, church members, or other Christians approached me to assist believers resolve a dispute outside of court. We are in a litigious society and are concerned about preserving our “rights”. However, as Christ followers, we are called to lived differently from the world.
What are Christians supposed to do? We get into conflict just like everyone else and we sometimes can’t resolve those conflicts on our own. Christian conciliation – or mediation – is an option. Church conflict, family conflict, church members conflicts, even in divorces, mediation without lawyers can be of benefit, particularly if you want to resolve your conflict outside of court. Everyone has a right to a lawyer and to get legal advice from his or her own attorney of choice, and I do encourage people to seek legal counsel; however, a less costly option to litigation is mediation. To be clear, “cost” references not just financial but also emotional, physical, and spiritual to not just you but to others such as your children, extended family, and church family.
Whether or not you’re a Christian, divorce is difficult. I’ve represented many Christians going through divorce, and they have a very difficult time with it because of their beliefs, their perception of what others in their church may think, what their church going family will think, etc. I’ve even represented a pastor and a pastor’s wife – those were incredibly difficult situations. Though divorce is certainly not preferred, it is often the only choice. If there’s any abuse – you must get out. Christians have to reconcile what they believe their religion teaches with their daily reality in the home and with their spouse. We are called to keep the unity, to live in peace with others, and to love others. According to a Google search (very scientific, I know!), the word “peace” appears 429 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, one of God’s names is Jehovah Shalom. When you are going through conflict in the home and have made the difficult decision to divorce, will you strive to keep the peace? Is it even possible to have a peaceful divorce? Yes! it is possible.
There is a path to peace through a divorce. You must believe that God is in control. In the midst of the conflict, trust God, know that He’s sovereign over your situation. Seek a resolution prior to filing suit. Mediation with or without lawyers is an option. You can seek a mediator who understands your faith and the desire to honor God through this difficult time in your life. Do an assessment of the cost of litigation in your life. What toll will it take financially? What about on your mental health? How much additional stress? What will you lose in sleep, work, time with children, time with extended family because of litigation?
Having grown up in the church, been on mission work, and now holding a Master’s of Divinity, I understand the importance of faith and following Christ’s example. A few years ago, my business card and all of my letterhead had the Micah 6:8 verse, “what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Notice that mercy and humility follow justice; that is, justice is tempered by mercy and humility. This is not to say you should just give in and give over everything. Jesus said we should be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Mt 10:16) Mercy tempering justice is a reminder that we can’t be vengeful. If we want to live in peace and resolve conflict, we must forgive and move past the anger to reach a resolution that is reasonable and in the best interest of all.
Conflict can bring out the worst in us, even Christians. However, a Max Lucado wrote, “Conflict is inevitable but combat is optional.” You can avoid combat and resolve through Christian consolidation (a/k/a mediation) using someone who not only understands the law and is a trained mediator, but who also understands the faith.