Jeremiah 6:14 (Jeremiah 8:11 also) – They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. (NRSV)
I'm sure that many of us have picked up a child who has fallen, or is upset for some reason or other, and said, "Now stop crying. You're all right. It didn't hurt that much." I catch myself saying this to my four-year-old daughter from time to time, and always wince just after I've said it. I need to find some better way of reassuring her, one that does not belittle her concerns or ignore her pain.
Some time ago I had the opportunity to watch a congregation and its leaders deal with significant conflict. I think I have learned two important things from this experience. First, though these two actions may at times resemble one another, there is a difference between gossiping and asking for help. When people have been hurt, they have a real need to talk to someone about it. People may sometimes need to share their pain, not out of maliciousness, but in order to heal.
Secondly, and more importantly, in order for there to be healing, we must acknowledge that there has been hurt. When people tell us that they are hurt, we need to do something other than say, "It'll be okay," or "Things can't really be that bad." Emotional and spiritual hurts are just as real as physical hurts, and they require healing just as much or more. If we say, "'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace," if we try to tell people that they aren't really hurt, then we are treating the wound of God's people carelessly.
Thankfully, the congregation I am speaking of was blessed with a member who had the ability to listen to people's pain, and help them work toward healing. He could hold out his hand during worship and say, "Peace be with you," and they knew that he meant it, and that he would really work to help them achieve peace in their life. His validation of people's pain did a great deal to bring healing into many lives. When faced with conflict, we need to remember that the wounds are real, even if we ourselves cannot see them. Our task, with Jesus' help, is to work to heal those wounds — and we cannot do that until we recognize that they exist.
Prayer: God of unity, you know that all too often your church is torn apart by conflict. We ask that, where your people are wounded, you would work through us to accomplish healing. Use us to bring your peace to all your people, not simply by saying, "Peace, peace," but by real compassion, understanding, and love. Amen.