From the color of the carpet to who should be included as members, the church has always experienced conflict.
Maybe we should blame God. The creations stories in Genesis 1-3 suggest that conflict was bound to happen. Notice:
- all humans contain a bit of God within them (“created in the image of God”);
- diversity is the hallmark of creation (“male and female,” seeds, plants, birds, fish, and animals “of every kind”);
- humans have freedom (the freedom to choose whether to eat from the forbidden tree).
God’s created world is a mix of wildly diverse life forms. It climaxes in human bearers of God’s image, who are called to exercise “dominion” over God’s world. Each human being is unique, and each is endowed with freedom of choice. All this diversity and chance was built into creation before the fall. And God said, “All this is very good.”
It’s also an invitiation to conflict. A colony of ants or an assembly line of robots may work harmoniously together. But ants and robots are not human beings. Had humans not been created in God’s image, with diversity and freedom, with the capacity to think, reflect, feel and act, they probably would not have conflict.
True, conflict can be painful, and sometimes in the church is seen as sin. We do need to learn to deal with conflict constructively, especially in how we treat each other when we differ.
But Genesis suggests that conflict is a natural part of our life. Were we like ants or robots, we would not bear God’s image. Our life might be conflict-free, but it would be far less interesting, dynamic and rich.