“I need a break from church and from y’all to think about what happened,” a good friend wrote in a text message to me one day. And with that one message, Jasmine* never returned to my church again.
It all started during a sleepover three of us had at Jasmine’s place. Jasmine, Alexis* and I were talking late into the night and I told an insensitive joke—which I can no longer remember—which deeply offended Jasmine. Alexis laughed and the both of us thought nothing about it after that.
However, that one seemingly innocent remark affected Jasmine; she stopped talking to us and distanced herself from us after that episode.
Confused, we sent her text messages and even visited her at her house with a cake to cajole her, but to no avail. Our confusion turned to frustration when she started ignoring our other friends who were not involved in the conflict.
That’s when Alexis and I decided to get together with another good friend, Adrienne*, to address the situation. But instead of trying to understand the situation from Jasmine’s perspective, we spurred each other on in our unloving thoughts and harsh judgment towards her. We even thought about how to craft the most strongly-worded passive-aggressive text messages to her. Finally, one evening, Alexis and I received that sobering text message from her.
Jasmine was so hurt by what we had said, that she left the church. Although we did not intend this to happen, I have to admit that we were partly relieved that we didn’t have to face her (or the awkward situation) again.
However, while we had seemingly won the battle against her, we had lost the war against our sinful selves.
When someone leaves the church because of a conflict, it’s easy to sweep the entire thing under the carpet and pretend nothing ever happened. After all, who wants to humble themselves to admit they were wrong and apologize?
However, God repeatedly refers to the Church as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12) and gives us these instructions when it comes to relating with one another:
1. As the Body of Christ, we are called to be united
The church is the Body of Christ and each one of us is a member who plays a specific role in the family of God. In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul urges us to live a life worthy of our calling by being humble, gentle, and patient. Unity does not start from a group or from others—it has to start from ourselves.
This means learning to value others’ interests above our own (Philippians 2:3-4), not being harsh when a fellow brother or sister has done wrong but showing them kindness instead, and showing patience and grace towards the faults of another.
Ultimately, it is about recognizing the other party as a brother or sister in Christ and doing our part in ministry so that we can grow together in maturity (Ephesians 4:13).
2. As the Body of Christ, we are called to love
The apostle Paul tells us that undergirding all these is love (Ephesians 4:2). Even though I did not harbor any malicious intent towards Jasmine when I made that comment, my lack of sensitivity towards her displayed my lack of love. And the issue escalated because my friends and I did not consider her feelings and were unloving towards her.
Through this episode, I learned that loving others is not simply a fuzzy-wuzzy feeling but a commandment and a conscious choice we have to make. If we profess to love God, we have to learn to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31)—no matter how difficult or unlovable the person is.
When it comes to those whom I find difficult to love, I remind myself that God chose to love me even though I’m not that lovable myself. If God can choose to love someone like me, I too can choose to love my friend and channel the same undeserving love I have received to my friend (1 John 4:19).
3. As the Body of Christ, we are called to forgive
God showed His love for us by dying on the cross for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). When we understand the extent of God’s love for us, we are then able to forgive others.
Forgiveness is a deliberate act on our part. It is not something that is easy, but because Christ has forgiven us, we can forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32). We are called to forgive each other not just once or twice, but seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21-22) and to seek reconciliation.
In my case, we didn’t do this until our youth mentor forced us to sit down and talk. He reminded us that when we are gathered, God is with us (Matthew 18:20). As we took turns to explain why we were upset with each other, God worked in my heart to apologize to and to forgive Jasmine. The session helped us to understand the situation from each other’s perspective and forgive each other.
Although Jasmine has left my church, I’m thankful that all of us have since forgiven each other and are reconciled. Today, she goes to another church but all of us still hang out together regularly.
Through this episode, I have come to realize that harmony and unity in the church is difficult to build when all of us are so vastly different and terribly sinful. Our relationships will never be perfect and we will always offend or hurt others. But God used this episode to reveal my ugly heart to me and remind me that harmony in the church is something that all of us have to work on and cannot take for granted.
Reconciliation and humility requires supernatural strength and effort, which we can only achieve through God’s strength. However, if we remember that we have God’s love to bind all of us together, we can be the Body of Christ God longs to see.
*All names have been changed.