The march to Lord Stanley’s Cup has begun. It is a beautiful march. There are twists and turns, drama and heartbreak, injury and success. It will end in euphoria. Hockey is a sport with more than it’s fair share of conflict. Whether that is dropping the gloves or lighting the lamp, hockey wouldn’t be what it is without conflict. It drives up the intensity and takes the sport, and the playoffs, to a different level.
I wonder, though, if conflict in other areas is as enticing and necessary and beautiful as it is in hockey. Some would perhaps argue that if there is one place conflict should not exist it is in the church. We are supposed to be the place where conflict goes to die that unity might rise again. In my reading this morning I came across this passage from Martin Franzmann that challenged that notion. I don’t really know what to do with it yet, but it is worth sharing.
“Conflict is never pretty and always entails agony; and there are those who hold that in the church all conflict should be avoided at all costs and tranquility should be purchased at any price, and they deem such clotted calm the very peace of God. But the evangelists’ account of the contradicted Christ tells us plainly that the church cannot avoid conflict if she be the church of Christ. It tells us that men must take the agony of conflict and bear the brunt of of controversy if they are the Christ’s. We cluck our disapproval of the bitter controversies of the past and rejoice that such things can no longer happen here. Perhaps our reluctance to face conflict is one of the reasons why we see so puny a Christ and think our God and His kingdom so small.” —Martin Franzmann, Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961), 118.
Like I said, I don’t exactly know what to do with that. I wonder if the point is not about seeking out conflict arbitrarily, rather, when conflict comes we don’t flee from it. There are times when you need to go to the mat. The history of the church has demonstrated that even though not every issue needed to be fought over, some indeed did. The trick, I suppose, is figuring out when you need to go to the mat and when you don’t. There are times when the agony and ugliness need to be embraced, whether we like it or not.