Jesus says, “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again.”
from The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language
Being a member of a Christian church is a serious matter. It involves living out what we say we believe: that we are called to love one another as God loves us. As we well know, this is not easy. We can say we love the whole world, we may even march for world peace, but does that “universal love” manage to finds its way to the nitty-gritty of life? Not always.
When people gather consistently in community, conflict is inevitable. But, Jesus tells us in this Scripture passage, we are to do something about it, not let the conflict fester like an untended wound. There are two interesting things about Jesus’ advice.
The first is that the burden is on the victim, the injured or hurt person. When someone hurts me, it is up to me to take the initiative, go to the person, and say honestly how I feel. No room for whining or nursing my wounds, or making snide remarks about the person behind his back.
Secondly, the point is not to prove I am right or that the other person is wrong. Reconciliation is the goal, not retribution. Relationships are more important than being right. They are the key to any community, as they are in any family. We can talk all day about what we believe, but if our beliefs aren't reflected in our actions, what good are the words?
Love is not esoteric; ultimately, it's not about feeling. Love is an act of will. Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” It’s a serious commandment, and one that makes all the difference in the world.
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Give us, we pray, the will to love others as you love us. Amen.
Copyright ©2005 Margaret W. Jones.