Stupid stuff exists in the church because we often fail to realize conflict resolution is a skill. We are also good at over-spiritualizing events in our lives, leading us to use biblical truths and religious practices as justification for bad behavior. For example, if someone were to interpret the spiritual gift of discernment as the supernatural ability to read peoples’ minds and hearts, he might claim to know what others are thinking and feeling. It’s hard to work out a mutual resolution with someone who believes he has the wisdom of God. Of course, the gift of discernment is really about being able to identify false teaching, but like so many spiritual subjects, it is frequently hijacked for personal use.
Although I have spent time here clarifying how poor conflict management leads to stupid stuff, my real intend is to be mindful of the role these digressions play in turning people away from Christ’s Bride. A fighting bride is not pretty. Imagine how people would squirm in their seats if a bride came down the aisle screaming at her father and bickering at a distance with her groom over something that didn’t meet her approval.
Throughout my life I have talked with people who remembered their family leaving a church in the middle of a congregational spat over a preacher, program or expense. They might have been too young to know the details, but they were aware something hurt their parents deeply and led them to give up on the church. I have also wept with people who love their church family, but have decided to leave because the endless infighting between members is starting to impede their ability to worship.
Christ’s Bride is beautiful by nature, but conflict makes her very unattractive. It stains her reputation in the community and causes people who might want to know her under different circumstances to stay away. This may be the most disheartening aspect of all when it comes to stupid stuff. When the Lord’s people don’t learn to settle their differences, souls are lost. I know there are those who might disagree with this statement on the grounds that the church doesn’t actually save people, but rather is the agent leading them to God’s grace. Yet, I am convinced when others reject grace because we seem incapable of showing it we share responsibility for their lost state. Stupid stuff sends people to hell! Good conflict management isn’t just a matter of keeping the peace. It is necessary if we want to the Bride to look her best to a lost and dying world.