Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Mercy G. Hobbs Just what is it about reading the Gospel of Matthew 18:15-20 that makes us so uncomfortable? Is it the challenge that Jesus sets before us?

He is asking us to spare no effort to help a person who has wronged us to see their error then work to make things work right again between you. Looking at this passage we have in our hands a guide for fixing broken relationships � in the church, in our families and in the larger community.

If we feel someone has wronged us, we need to, as soon as possible, let that person know about it privately. One of the worst things we can do when someone hurts us is keep it inside and just stew about it. When we do that, it's like a poison that infects and sickens us, spreading through our mind until it is all we can think about. When we let someone know they have hurt us, we have taken the first step in the process of healing by naming what is wrong.

When we have a problem with someone, we need to handle it in person. All too often when we try to avoid confrontation or conflict we end up taking a detour rather than a direct route.

One such detour is to put it into writing. This is not to say that putting our thoughts into writing cannot be helpful to clarify our feelings, but we do risk being misunderstood. When we are not face-to-face they cannot see our facial expressions or hear the inflection in our voice. At best, it is somewhat an impersonal way of dealing with a very personal problem.

If a private meeting doesn't work, the Bible tells us we should take an elder of someone who is wise with us. This person would serve as mediator, using their insight and wisdom to help us hear the other person's position more clearly and help reconcile our differences.

If that fails, we are told to take it to the church, which does not mean that we bring it to the congregation for trial or judgement. We bring it to the church so that in an atmosphere of prayer, love and fellowship we might find the wisdom and the healing to make things right.

If after all this the other person is still at odds with us, what are we to do? In light of Jesus' example, we know it does not give us permission to simply give up on that person, to just write them off as being too bad or too stubborn, or too hard to deal with and therefore just not worth the effort. We know it is our lord himself calling to us, to use the love that he so freely gives us to try and reach that person's heart as Christ reaches our own.

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