And now to Precosia. In some respects, I find this the saddest of all the scenarios we have looked at. Why do I say that? It’s not to diminish the seriousness of the other situations. However, I think that generally speaking we are more likely to get what is stake with the other ones. When it comes to friends falling out, we may well underestimate the damage it does to congregations: unity is broken, ministries are disrupted and witness is compromised.
Now, why do disputes go on for so long? Why do we find that people sit in the same churches at opposite sides of the aisle for years refusing to talk? Why is it that a campaign of gossiping and sniping can be sustained over weeks, months, years, even decades? Why is it that the relationship remains broken long after anyone can really remember what it was all about?
I want to suggest that part of the problem is that we treat ourselves far too seriously. I remember a piece of advice I got a few years back. It went along the lines of, “Don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t take the things others say too seriously, but do take God very seriously.”
We take ourselves seriously and so when someone causes us offence, we believe it is vital to defend our own honour. That’s why people like Precosia stop talking to each other isn’t it? Their pride is wounded.
Yet, when I say that my dignity is more important than the unity of the church, more essential than making sure that the Gospel is preached, more necessary than the potential long-term effect on someone else’s walk with God, then I am putting myself on a pedestal with Him. Am I really unable to swallow my pride and go and talk to that person?
The point of God’s greatness and goodness is that it means he is utterly different to us. We saw this when we described his holiness. This is why theologians like Calvin, Van Til, Frame and Ovey down the generations have been so keen to remind us of the Creature/Creator distinction and which side of the divide we are on.
It is a sin when we refuse to get along. It is a sin when we hold onto a grudge and break friendship and fellowship with others. Precosia needs to be called out on this. The pastor’s role here is not so much to try and mediate a compromise between the two people. Rather, it is to call them to repentance.
It is only then, having discovered again how wonderful, amazing and glorious God is – that he is the one to be worshipped, that it is his honour that must be guarded – that Precosia can overcome her pride and set aside her differences.
 Although I would add that this is not completely the case. For example, I still don’t think Christians realise quite how serious marriage to an unbeliever is, or indeed the serious cost of work idolatry but we do realise that these things are to some extent serious in a way that we perhaps don’t treat petty fallings out.