(No tear sheet)
Leon Uris’ book, Trinity, fictionalizes the history of Ireland’s conflict with England. It brings out that the battle is not primarily over religious issues, but does involve people associated with Christian denominations. Unfortunately, many people blame the church, religion in general, or even God, rather than putting it where it belongs.
Hundreds of years ago, the poor people in Ireland suffered abuse at the hands of those with money. The upper class not only exploited them, but ridiculed their faith and made fun of their culture. They fought back in a conflict complicated by potato crop failure, intermarriage between factions, and other circumstances.
Today, only those familiar with history understand the roots. The rest of the world looks at Ireland’s conflict as senseless slaughter, or revenge, or a control thing, or lust for violence. Even as talks continue between groups of Republicans and Democrats, Protestants and Catholics, there seems no end to bombing and killing. What will bring peace to Ireland?
Ireland is not the only battleground with religious overtones. In a different kind of conflict, a pastor is asked to resign from a local church even though some want him to stay. Those in control, are just as adamant that he leaves. The others wonder what they can do? Do they leave the church? Do they confront? Do they retaliate?
Or suppose a man is unfaithful to his holy marriage vows. His wife is hurt and angry. He refuses to apologize but says he wants to come back. She is upset, vindictive and wants to get even. What should be holy has disrupted into a domestic battle.
Whether large or small, all conflicts have only one lasting solution. It is not cease fire or settlement, although those happen. Neither is it a matter of one side winning and the other losing. It is God’s simple solution: forgiveness. With it, both sides win.
Contention is sometimes uncomplicated: one person initiates a strike and makes another person the victim. Most injured people who have not done anything to provoke a conflict or perpetuate it feel like striking back, but God says, “Do not retaliate, vengeance is mine.” Getting even is not one of His options.
If an injured person’s pain turns to anger and then bitterness, God also offers this note of caution, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Bitter anger is not one of His options either. Instead, God says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.”
In situations like the one in Ireland, conflicts are more complex. Years of “I touched you last” heap pain on all sides. Some people may not even be sure why they hate others, they just hate them. However, if peace will happen, someone has to say, “I quit. Even though I am hurt and justifiably angry, I choose to stop fighting, stop getting even . . . and forgive.”
The next step that person must take is this: “I have been wrong and hurt you also. Will you forgive me?” While asking forgiveness is risky (what if the other side keeps shooting?) there is far greater probability for peace this way than taking the avenue of revenge. Besides, God honors those who obey His commands. Anyone who has seems to be a loser if they seek to forgive will gain because God bestows His blessing on peacemakers.
Seeking forgiveness does seem like a simplistic solution; however, if anyone is hurt, angry and drowning in bitterness, it will be the most difficult thing they have ever tried to do. In fact, without realizing the deep forgiveness God offers them, it is unlikely any angry, bitter person can do it.