Conflicted Systems: Initial Concepts
Dr. Amanda W. Ragland
Conflict in the Body of Christ is devastating with the power to undermine the very identity of the Church and destroy the mission. The presence of God is known through the Holy Spirit that knits us together so that we resemble Christ, and through this joining together we carry the love and grace of Christ into the world. Ephesians 2:21-22 reads: “21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”. But, what happens when conflict tears us apart? What happens when the conflict becomes more important than experiencing and carrying the love and grace of Christ? The actions we take together as a Body resemble Christ less and less. As the Church, we are the flawed bride of Christ. There is hope for us because there is no wound to deep, no sin to great and no experience so damaging that can take us beyond God’s reach. (Consider Romans 8). As the Church, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (consider Philippians 4:13). The work of turning around an unhealthy system is difficult and takes time, but if we choose this path, God will be on our side.
Denial is pretending that nothing has happened, minimizing the damage that is done and pretending as if the unhealthy interactions among us are because of one or two people. This is the process of “sweeping it under the rug”. Denial involves cutting off the emotions and keeping hurts hidden and more and more isolated. Psalm 25:5 reads, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long”. John 8:32 reads, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Blaming develops in an unhealthy system when individuals are experiencing so much pain that they cannot see past this pain to see the perspective of the other. In blaming, individuals lose sight of their own shortcomings and this becomes a block to the presence and action of grace in the system. (Consider the story of the women caught in adultery that those gathered wanted to stone). Blaming springs up in systems when there is a lack of connection and accountability so that wrong actions are named and addressed for the greater good. Admonishing in the Spirit of Christ is a concept we need to study. (Consider Colossians 3:16).
Unhealthy systems made up of unhealthy individuals:
What are the areas that make for health? Luke 10:27 reads, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself”.
To be unhealthy with emotions:
This means suppressed emotions that become walled off and grow toxic; building anger that causes lashing out and explosions and being out of control of our words and actions; vulnerabilities that cause divisiveness. The need to express emotions never overrides scripture.
To be unhealthy in soul:
This means harboring unforgiveness and taking up the life of the flesh over the life of the Spirit. Spiritual lack of health happens when sins fester and separate us from fellowship with God. Self-justification is often the first stepping stone that leads us on a path where what we think we want and need becomes more important that God’s ultimate plan for us where God is God and we are sinful humans in need of God’s redemption.
To be unhealthy of mind:
This means accepting lies and truth and defining situation in terms of our conceptions that take us further and further away from reconciliation and living peaceably with each other.
To be unhealthy of strength:
This means gathering our strength from the ways of the flesh instead of the ways of the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17). Drawing our energy from the ways of the flesh will always end in us being tired, worn out, beaten down, perplexed and hopeless.
Secrets versus Confidences:
Distinguishing between what are secrets and what are confidences requires evaluating the end goal of the communication. Does this communication cause destruction and lead to harm and woundedness, further isolation and conflict? If so, then this is a secret. Does the communication lead to safety and cause trust, edification, hope, healing and restoration of the body? If so, then this is a confidence.
When you are facing difficulty, what do you do? Reach out to a friend or a pastor. Who hasn’t done this? Consider Proverbs 1:5: “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance”. James 5 tells us that is anyone is sick, call the elders to pray and to anoint with oil. In most circumstances, there are pockets of health within a system. Name these and seek counsel. Do all in your ability to help the health be promoted. With God’s help, play towards the strengths and gifts of the system. Also there are times when a person from outside a system can work beyond walls and divisions to bring the love and grace of Christ is a fresh new way.