Within the body of the Church, conflicts, misunderstandings, and scandals are inevitable. As long as the Holy Orthodox Church continues to exist, so as to save sinners through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, human beings will disagree. Though God’s presence in the lives of all persons within a conflict may be apparent, this will not necessarily cease misunderstandings and misconceptions within any community, be it monastic or cathedral. If this were the case, no councils would have needed to take place, or at the very least, even if they did, no discussions of the issues would have arisen, even between the saints. But they did. For human beings will disagree, and that is not always a bad thing, within this fallen world.

For even though God is present in our own lives and guides our actions by the power of the Holy Spirit, if we so submit, we never cease to be, at least in this life, human and imperfect. Even the person with the best of intentions and good will towards all can easily misunderstand another person’s words or intentions during any conversation, anywhere, anytime. This will inevitably lead to misunderstandings, potential conflicts, and, even sometimes, scandal. Our Lord Jesus Christ knew these things would come and forewarned us when said in Matthew 18:7, “Woe to the world because of scandals. For scandals must come”.

This is very important to note because so often in our OCF Chapters, within our parishes, and even within our own families, when conflicts arise, we are somehow led to believe that they have come specifically because something is entirely wrong with the other person with whom we disagree. Now I would wholeheartedly agree that there is something wrong with the both of us – the one thing we share, our struggle against sin. However, conflicts are not (likely) arising in our chapters and parishes because you, or the person with whom you disagree, is an entirely evil person whom can’t be trusted (though you both sin), it is because you each have a different genetic makeup and have different brains that draw different conclusions about nearly everything you think about, almost all of the time. So to assume that simple day-to-day disagreements come because of major flaws in another’s integrity or character, from either side, is not often helpful or even an accurate assessment of most situations. Now let’s be clear, I’m not speaking about major issues and concerns which might involve illegality or corruption, what I am speaking of are those situations that divide our chapters, our parishes, and our families based on simple misunderstandings about personal intentions and daily work. They are deadly, yet need not be. They destroy, when in truth, through Christ, they are supposed to build.

In chapters, parishes, and within Orthodox Christian families, we are engaging relationships with one another in the process of salvation and theosis. Relationships which have never suffered through any kind of disagreement or discord, are relationships which remain untested. It is only when struggles come and are tested that our fortitude and character can truly be tested, and only then will our true wills and intent be revealed.
So next time you are in a chapter meeting, a parish assembly, or a family pow-wow, when you find that you disagree about certain things, don’t believe for one moment that you disagree with the “other” person because they are obviously a worse sinner than you. But rather acknowledge that you are both human beings with different experiences, different brains, and have different eyes with which to see things. The only problem you both have is that the evil one sees your quite simple and innocent disagreement, and will now try to use that disagreement to create a wedge between you both, using sin as his weapon (and, of course, removing God’s Divine Truth and Love from seasoning the outcome). This is where the true struggle begins, this is where our true character will be revealed and must prevail, this is where prayer must become our sword and truth our shield. Only then, in true humility and Christian love, will discord, conflict, and disagreement be turned into harmony, peace, and true friendship in and through our Lord Jesus Christ!

As you embark on a new semester, some your first, be patient and loving with others, as our Lord Jesus Christ is with you and I. And let us remember as we make and build new relationships, that we have been forewarned by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:2, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” If when we disagree with others, we continually judge them, possibly incorrectly with not a full understanding of their circumstances, then we place the same judgement on our own heads, and our own injustice will be revealed and the negative consequences of such harsh judgements within our own lives and throughout eternity will be justified. So we must learn to be patient with one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to love the other unceasingly, and realize that even though conflicts will most definitely come, it is how we handle them that will determine who we are, not the conflicts themselves!