Grace and Peace to you.
If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
—Matthew 18. 15-17
We often twist this into a way to cause hurt instead of healing. Don’t take this as an excuse to tell others what they ought to do or think. It’s about standing for who you are, expressing what you feel and asking for what you need, without re-shaping your truth to please others.
But it’s not about getting your way: it’s about maintaining relationships. It’s an invitation to talk to people instead of talking about them, to be direct and honest. To do this we have to listen rather than arguing, and be gentle rather than being coercive. We have to let our compassion for the other be greater than our pain, and concern for the relationship be greater than concern about what others think of us. We have to trust that love transforms all discomfort, all disappointment, all offense. We have to trust that we’re going to be OK even if we tell the truth. We have to be willing to be loving rather than being right.
Bringing others in might tempt us to create triangles—to get third parties stuck in the middle of our conflicts. But the others are witnesses to keep us honest, not go-betweens to do our dirty work, or accomplices to help us gang up. They can help us see what we can’t, and say what we haven’t, and hear what we won’t.
Jesus’ asks us to honestly face the pain in our lives, stay in relationship, be loving, and invite people into healthy ways of relating.
But when it fails, and someone insists on being an idiot and a jerk, Jesus gives us permission to shun them. Right?
Well… how did Jesus treat Gentiles and tax collectors?
Go then, and do the same.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes