Hearts of Peace

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3: 12, 14-15a

When I was a local church pastor in my first appointment, I found myself in conflict with a lay person in the congregation. This man wanted to be chair of the trustees.  I thought him inappropriate for the role, and I made sure he did not get elected. I later found out that he was hurt by my actions.

Of course, I felt that I was right about the issue. But now I know that I was also profoundly wrong. I was wrong in my way of being toward this man. My heart was at war with him.  

As we approach the 2019 Special Session, many have recommended the book The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Institute. It is a parable about dealing with conflict. But it is much more. It seeks to teach us how to live in ways that allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, (Col 3:15).

The book lays out a simple but profound proposition--that we can be right about issues and dead wrong in how we are toward one another. Indeed, the book suggests that we are only “right” to the extent that our hearts are at peace toward one another, rather than at war.

Hearts of peace think of others, not as obstacles to be overcome, but as human beings. Hearts of peace realize that no human being can be reduced to a political position, an ideology, or membership within a demographic group. Hearts of peace understand that we are all children of God.

Hearts of war, on the other hand, objectify and judge people by where they fall along an ideological spectrum. Hearts of war stereotype and blame whole groups of people.  Hearts of war create “us and them” dichotomies and elevate loyalty to tribe above the biblical call to love neighbor as self.  

Our bishops have put forth a recommendation for a way to be in ministry with our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. They will share with the delegates a report that details the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, includes materials important to the Council’s discernment, and recommends the “One Church” plan.

They are seeking, in this approach, to honor the values of unity, mission and context. And they are inviting the whole church into prayerful discernment. As we consider their proposal and discern with them, where will our hearts be?

This is an important question as we approach the 2019 Special Session, because to find a way forward will require all of us to be creative, work together and show compassion toward one another. Yet, when our hearts are at war, our anxiety is high and our creativity is low. We are more defensive and less able to build bridges that lead to compromise. And when we are warring, we are more competitive than we are compassionate.   

My prayer is that we will choose hearts of compassion and peace. Indeed, throughout Jesus’ ministry, he chose to have such a heart toward people no matter what they believed. We have that same choice today. It is a crucial choice for the health of our church.

At the end of my first pastoral appointment, I asked to talk to the man with whom I had been in conflict. I wanted to apologize, not for the result of the trustee election, but for my way of being toward him.
Over the course of our conversation, he shared with me many things that I did not know about his life. In particular, he shared the greatest pain of his life—the murder of his college-age daughter. We talked about that event and about her life for hours. I remembered with him and suffered with him in the sharing of his memories.

To suffer with someone is the very meaning of compassion. And to have compassion is the very essence of God’s call upon our lives. As the writer of Colossians reminds us, we are called to clothe ourselves with “… compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” We are called to clothe ourselves with “… love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  By doing these things, we allow “… the peace of Christ [to] rule in [our] hearts.”

May it be so!

Rev. Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai
Chief Connectional Ministries Officer
Connectional Table

[1] The Anatomy of Peace (2015) The Arbinger Institute, p. 59
[2] Ibid., p. 130


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