All names have been changed for confidentiality.
“I need a break from church and from y’all to think about what happened,” a good friend wrote in a text message to me one day. And with that one message, Jasmine never returned to my Church again.
It all started during a sleepover three of us had at Jasmine’s place. Jasmine, Alexis and I were talking late into the night and I made an insensitive joke about Jasmine — one which I can no longer remember. Alexis laughed and the both of us thought nothing about it after that.
But that one “innocent” remark had severely affected Jasmine. Extremely offended, she stopped talking to us and distanced herself from us after that episode.
Confused, we sent her text messages and even visited her at her house with a cake to make it up to her. But nothing worked. Our confusion turned to frustration when she started ignoring our other friends who weren’t even involved in the conflict.
That’s when Alexis and I decided to get together with another good friend, Adrienne, to assess the situation. But instead of trying to understand how Jasmine saw things, we ended up saying unloving things about Jasmine and judging her harshly. We even thought about how to craft the most strongly worded, passive-aggressive text message to her.
Eventually, Alexis and I received a sobering text message from her one evening.
When someone leaves the Church because of a conflict, it’s easy to sweep the entire thing under the carpet and pretend nothing ever happened.
Jasmine was so hurt by what we said that she had decided to leave our Church. Although we never intended for this to happen, I have to admit that even then we were half-relieved that we didn’t have to face her and the awkward situation again.
Looking back, I know we had sinned.
When someone leaves the Church because of a conflict, it’s easy to sweep the entire thing under the carpet and pretend nothing ever happened. After all, who wants to humble themselves to admit they were wrong and apologise?
However, God repeatedly refers to the Church as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12) and gives us these instructions when it comes to relating with one another:
1. As the Body of Christ, we are called to unite
The Church is the Body of Christ and each one of us is a member who plays a specific role in the family of God. In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul urges us to live a life worthy of our calling by being humble, gentle, and patient. Unity starts from ourselves.
This means learning to value others’ interests above our own (Philippians 2:3-4) and not being harsh when a fellow brother or sister has done wrong. We are to show them kindness, patience and grace instead – pointing them to God’s way.
Ultimately, it is about recognising the other party as a brother or sister in Christ and doing our part in ministry so that we can grow together in maturity (Ephesians 4:13).
2. As the Body of Christ, we are called to love
The apostle Paul tells us that love undergirds all (Ephesians 4:2). Even though I did not harbour any malicious intent towards Jasmine when I made that comment, my lack of sensitivity towards her revealed my lack of love. And the issue escalated because my friends and I did not consider her feelings and were unloving towards her.
Through this episode, I learned that loving others is not simply a fuzzy feeling but a commandment and a conscious choice we have to make. If we profess to love God, we have to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:31) — no matter how difficult or unlovable the person is.
When it comes to those who I find difficult to love, I remind myself that God chose to love me even though I’m not lovable myself.
And if God can choose to love someone like me, then I too can choose to love my friend and channel the same undeserving love I have received to my friend (1 John 4:19). I must.
God showed His love for us by dying on the cross for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). When we truly understand the extent of God’s love for us, we will want and see the need to forgive others.
Forgiveness is a deliberate act on our part. It is not something that is easy, but because Christ has forgiven us, we can forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32). We are called to forgive each other not just once or twice, but seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21-22). We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), to seek reconciliation.
In my case, we didn’t do this until our youth mentor forced us all – Jasmine included – to sit down and talk things out. He reminded us that when we are gathered, God is with us (Matthew 18:20).
So as we took turns to explain why we were upset with each other, God worked in my heart so I was able to both apologise to and forgive Jasmine. The session helped us to understand the situation from each other’s perspectives and forgive each other.
Although Jasmine has left my Church, I’m thankful that all of us have forgiven each other and are reconciled. Today, she goes to another Church but we still hang out together regularly!
Through this episode, I have come to realise that harmony and unity in the church is difficult to build when we are all so different and sinful. Our relationships will never be perfect and at certain points, we are likely to end up offending or hurting others.
But God used this episode to teach me ultimately that harmony in the church is something all of us have to work on. We cannot take unity for granted.
Reconciliation and humility require supernatural strength and effort, which we can only achieve through God’s strength. However, if we act from the belief that God’s love binds all of us together, then we can be the Body of Christ God longs to see.
This article was first published on YMI.today. It is republished here with permission.