Our congregation is in a pickle over a major conflict. People have grouped themselves into clusters and speak to the opposing side only in the most uncivil terms. They are at each other’s throats at voters assemblies. And communion! Some are boycotting communion because they disagree with the pastor. Those who support the pastor say they won’t commune if the others do. Is this right? Is this godly? I find that even I don’t feel like taking communion because I’m so depressed about all this. Is there something I should be doing to protect my own spiritual life? Is there something I should be doing to help bring these people together?
Let’s address your own spiritual life first. It is possible to “feel” like you don’t want to go to the Holy Supper of Christ. While I can understand this (especially in light of the situation at your congregation), I encourage you not to act on this feeling. Remem-ber that in communion Christ comes to you. His meal is given as a means of strengthening your faith. One way, then, of “protecting” your spiritual life is to receive the body and blood of Christ. By all means, in prayerful repentance and prayer, asking Christ to strengthen your faith and draw you closer to Him, and led by the Holy Spirit, go to the altar and receive Christ!
Beyond that, if you are so moved, consider speaking to each “side,” telling them what a damaging effect their conflict is having on you. Speak more in terms of yourself than “them.” For example, “I feel depressed by this conflict and fear it is hurting my own spiritual life. I am praying that you will solve this, because that’s what Christians need to do.” The conflicted parties, so caught up in themselves, need to know that they actually are harming others. Be sure to say the same thing to both sides.
If you choose not to do this, then it is important for you to absolve yourself from any further guilt here. It is the conflicted parties, after all, not you (at least as far as this battle is concerned), who are responsible for their behavior and who must stand in accountability before the throne of God.
When people in the LCMS community turn their backs on Christ in the Holy Eucharist because of relationship issues with others, I hope to think they are doing so for the right reason: They want first to reconcile with their fellow Christians. This is appropriate. So perhaps one thing you can do is pray that this reconciliation effort is blessed by God’s Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, if the warring parties show no interest in actively pursuing reconciliation, I fear for their spiritual lives. If this be true, fervent prayer for them is most certainly needed.
Your openness about this is a good thing. God’s Holy Spirit be with you!
Rev. Bruce M. Hartung, Ph.D., is associate professor of practical theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted July 29, 2005