From Nayiri Karjian, Association General Minister
February 22, 2024

It is said that GRACE is an acronym representing five attributes: G is for generosity, R is respect, A is action, C is compassion, and E is energy. Do you experience these attributes in your church?

We are still feeling the repercussions of COVID in our churches. Anxiety and angst, worry and fear especially about the unknown future of the church continue to plague many of us. As a result, some of our churches are finding themselves in conflict and disagreement, even over issues small and mundane.

This reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth where the new church had anxiety. As a result, they began arguing about all kinds of issues, great or small. The Apostle Paul writes to them, addressing their questions and issues of conflict. 

Not surprisingly, the first subject was about dissensions and disagreements. Paul’s answer is clear – You were baptized in Christ’s name. You belong to Christ. So, follow Christ.  The next question was about the cross, the power and wisdom of God. Paul answers – God chooses you. You are loved. You are blessed. Behave as God’s loved and blessed people.

Next were practical questions about sexuality and the body. The cleanliness laws were confusing to the new converts. Paul’s answer – you are God’s temple. God’s spirit lives in you. Behave accordingly.  Next was the issue of lawsuits, followed by issues about marriage, then food, followed with issues about worship and communion, then the issue of spiritual gifts. So Paul’s whole letter is advice and answers to questions, and disagreements, culminating in chapter 13. At the end of chapter 12, we find this brief, almost hidden sentence – “I will show you a more excellent way.” The answers he had given, the advice he shared, were all good, but now comes a better way, an excellent way, and that’s the way of love.

I believe love and grace are intertwined. They are contained in one another. In the church and outside the church, they are the best way to live. As the Corinthian church had issues of conflict 2000 years ago, so do we today in the church have issues of conflict that divide us – hymns and music style, who’s in charge, politics and faith, human sexuality, just to name a few. But this is nothing new. There is no time in the history of the Church when the Church has not struggled with one issue or another. 

I do not want to simplify conflict. In fact, if you have issues of abuse, mistreatment or unsafety in the church, you should report it to the church leadership. BUT if the issue bothering you is not life threatening to anyone, please ask yourself – is this worth a fight? Is the issue worth your energy and the division of the church? Our lives are already harried and demanding. We do not experience love and grace in most places. Why not make the church a place of grace? Why disturb the community for a conflict that can be resolved if you considered the bigger picture, approached the person with whom you disagree, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, learned about the issue and did not assume, and emptied your heart of animosity and the assurance that you yourself only are right.

The times we are living in are not easy for the church, its people and its pastors. We are all exhausted as we continue to keep the church and its good news of love vital and alive. We cannot do that with conflict and continued strife. This, I believe, is not a time for conflict, but for collaboration and cooperation, for love and grace. So, don’t fight. Give one another a break. Let go of the mundane. Cut each other some slack. Be kind. Be loving. Be gracious.