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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

“Lumpy Carpets”

Recognizing conflict appears to be reasonably straightforward. But is it? 

When two individuals have a heated argument over some disagreement, it’s usually a sign of conflict in the room. Referees officiating a basketball game call fouls based on their point of view (from what they observe). But what they see is not always what the players (or spectators) see. It’s a 100-percent certainty that an umpire’s call is guaranteed to offend someone. In any sporting event, conflict is going to happen. We expect it.

Conflict in the church particularly bothers us. We have higher expectations for our fellow Christians. We hesitate to acknowledge, welcome, or confront discord in our pursuit of peace and harmony. “I’m sure she didn’t mean to.” “Let’s just not say anything.” “We must be careful not to offend.” “What will they think of me if I address the matter?” “It will work itself out.” 

The problem is: unless confronted, problems fester. Failure to acknowledge or face the issue keeps us from discovering the gift of conflict. When we ignore or avoid contention, we sweep it under the rug. As long as it’s out of sight, no one will know. But “lumpy carpets” create accidents. Sooner or later, you (and others) will trip and fall. It’s too dangerous to avoid facing conflict, and the “reward of conflict” is too magnificent for us to bury it under the rug.  

In the church at Corinth, Paul quickly discovered many lingering, deep-seated tensions. Some were questioning his leadership. Arguments were taking place on matters of sexual ethics (1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 6:9-20); if it is appropriate for Christians to use litigation to resolve disputes (6:1-8); and how are the married, widowed, and unmarried to live (7:1-40)? And what about food offered to idols? Is it appropriate for Christians to eat meat sacrificed to other gods (8:1-13)? And the list of differences of opinions, ideas, and suppositions on any given subject must have seemed as massive as Corinth’s population. 

Although we don’t live in Corinth, we are much like the Corinthians. We continue to argue about sexual morality: adultery, contraception, gender identity, and more. We quarrel about religious matters: is religion necessary for society? Is sustaining a community and having moral order without a spiritual foundation possible? Do people need to believe in God? While our differences of opinion on food issues may not be rooted in meats sacrificed to idols, differences still exist: Are you vegan, vegetarian, or carnivorous? Are we allowed to drink wine, or must we abstain? 

Despite the endless, wide variety of disputes, Paul refuses to sweep matters under the carpet. He is unwilling to ignore or avoid these arguments because relationships are at risk. In a tumultuous environment filled with disagreement, confusion, and those insisting on “winning,” Paul reminds them (and us): 

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong-doing, but rejoices in the truth. It [love] bears all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). 

Remember to check for lumps in your “carpets” this week as you deal with others in your life with love.

-Richard Parrish

*This excerpt is taken from Richard’s new book and curriculum, The Gift of Conflict: The Art of Biblical Reconciliation, which will be released in Fall 2024.


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