I lived through a painful church split. Although it was over ten years ago, the awful effects are still being felt in many lives, families and churches.I believe I ended up on the right side of the divide. However, as I have reflected on my own conduct in the “heat of the battle,” I have often felt convicted by the Holy Spirit that although I believe I did the right thing, I sometimes did it in the wrong way or in the wrong spirit. As opportunity has arisen I have apologized to certain individuals. My confession and request for forgiveness has always been graciously given, even though we remain firmly convinced of our respective positions in the controversy. Sometimes it produced an apology and confession to me! Always it produced a better relationship between me and the person, and between me and God. I still have some outstanding business to do there as well, but that is a battle still being waged in the depth of my own soul in the shadow of Calvary. Here’s my advice to anyone recovering from a church division: 1. Try to distinguish between doing the right thing and doing the right thing in the wrong way or in the wrong spirit. Doing the right thing does not “atone” for doing it in the wrong way or spirit. 2. If you have done even 1% wrong, confess it to God and the person wronged, even if you are 99% right. 3. Even if you have been more sinned against than sinned, still confess that sin to God and to any other person involved. 4. Encourage others “on your side” to do the same, regardless of the conduct of any “opponent.” 5. No matter how much you are provoked, don’t keep bringing up the matter in the pulpit, in blogs, or in church newsletters. No church division is neat and tidy. You will probably end up with many on your side of the divide who still have dear friends across the trenches. They will not enjoy you presenting yourself as whiter than white, and the others as “the principalities and powers” that you are wrestling against. And if you need more help to utter that hardest of words “sss……sss…sorry,” then read Apologies are a sign of strength, which concludes with:
When you are at fault, you might fear that admitting an error is admitting weakness. On the contrary, apologies are a sign of strength. Adversity is an opportunity to show your true colors. It is remarkable when a leader is so confident and self-aware that he or she is able to simply apologize. Personally, I find it inspiring.