To resolve conflicts, the early Christians used the tools of civil society and took their opponents—fellow Christians—to court. St. Paul told them this was exactly the approachnot to take: “When you take another believer to court, you have lost the battle already.”(1 Corinthians 1:7)
To deal with disputes and conflicts today, we Christians may not haul people into court for every disagreement, but we do rely heavily on some of the more pervasive tools of our society, like shouting, mockery, sneers, lies, half-truths, and ridicule.
Jesus challenged us to consider another method for resolving conflicts: love and forgiveness.“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) St. Paul is more specific:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone…. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
We tend to dismiss this approach as impractical and useless. But consider…where have the tactics we have been using gotten us?
When I am confronted with someone who has hurt me, maybe I could harm them in return. But the Lord is clear: my job is to forgive that person. When I am confronted with a person whose opinions conflict with mine, maybe I could overwhelm them with contrary facts, shouting, mockery, and insults…and perhaps even win the argument. But my job is to love that person.
We shall not be judged on how many arguments we have won. We shall be judged on how much we have forgiven and loved.
It may mean that we lose the battle, but Jesus assures us that we shall win the war.
Chorbishop John D. Faris