Engaging Conflict Well – Part 2 “Start Within”
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-12)
In a recent devotion, I named the reality that conflict is part of God’s created order. Church is no exception. The difference about church from the rest of the world with regard to conflict, is that church should be a learning lab where we come to understand how live out the core principles of our faith, loving God and loving one another even when we disagree. We often fall short. Perhaps this is because we feel so passionately about the matters related to our faith or maybe we have slipped into the distortion that the church and all that it is and does belong to us, and not to God. What are we to do? Our scriptures teach us.
It starts deep within. Psalm 51 is a beautiful prayer of contrition attributed to David after Nathan held him accountable. Psalm 51 is often a focus for the season of Lent and we too are invited to look within. But to look within we first reach out to our Maker.
The prayer begins:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
The petitions to God continue. And the heart of the prayer and a key to engaging the conflict around is found in the words from verses 10-12 quoted above. In college, I often attended a Lutheran Church where we sang part of this prayer each week in the King James Version:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit.
This will be my prayer each day in this Lenten Season. It is worth committing to memory, whether or not in song: Won’t you pray it with me - especially when conflict rises up in your life and your church? This will help us engage differences in healthy ways that can bring us a deeper understanding and appreciation for the other.