Psalm 122 begins, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ ” (Psalm 122:1, NASB95) But sadly, the emotions some feel about going to church are far from gladness. It shouldn’t be that way, but church can be very stressful at times.
There are many causes of conflict in and about the gathering of the church. Some of those are spill-overs from conflicts in the world. Others are personal conflicts we bring with us. And some are internal conflicts concerning the how, why, where, who, and when of being a church. Church folks tend to argue over everything from high theology to where to put the clock on the wall. Seeking peace, we leave, split, divide, or choose sides. That works for a while until the next conflict roils the congregation.
Most of these conflicts are unhealthy and some are even toxic. But because of our differences, there will always be some cracks in the concrete. We all bring our baggage to church, our preferences, our knowledge and lack of knowledge, our maturity in Christ and lack of maturity. Those differences rarely “line up” with others. We are more like a collection of oddly shaped stones than uniformly shaped concrete blocks. But God takes those differences and miraculously fits us all together.
I’m convinced that if we go in seeking trouble, we’ll find it. I’m also convinced that if we go in seeking peace, we will find it. No church or gathering is perfect. No leader or governance is perfect. There will always be opportunities for conflict. We can amplify those conflicts or be peacemakers soothing those conflicts.
What if we adopted Psalm 122 as our prayer before stepping into the doors of our church? The psalmist had Jerusalem in mind, “Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.” (Psalm 122:6–9, NLT)
What if we take the theme of those verses and apply them to our church, our denomination, and the Church universal? Perhaps something like – “Father, I pray for the peace of the Vineyard Church Peoria. May all those who connect find peace and overflowing life. May there be peace within and a prosperity of love, willingness, wisdom, and finances to do the things you’ve called us to. Bless this house of worship with your peace and presence – amen.” Or perhaps just praying – “May your peace be here” before we pull into the parking lot. God’s answer may not remove the conflicts, but it will change our own attitude.
Why does any of this matter? Well, it’s not really about the church, but about how we exhibit the love of Christ for one another. Our peace has the potential to be a bright witness to others in a world of dark turmoil and conflict. As Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”(John 13:35, NLT) With all that love and peace, we should be glad when it is time again to gather in worship.