A short reflection on Matthew 18:15-20, the gospel lesson for Proper 18a, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
No matter how holy the person, or how pure their intentions, eventually they are going to hurt someone else. It’s inevitable.
When we are hurt, there are the two great temptations: 1) to strike back with vengeance and spite, and 2) to put on a fake smile and pretend that everything is just fine. Some people are naturally drawn to one of these. Sometimes we’re drawn to one or the other because of the situation or the person involved.
But, neither way brings peace.
Peace only comes from the hard, and sometimes painfully awkward, work of reconciliation.
Jesus, whose way is a way of love and peace naturally provides some instruction for what happens when, not if, someone hurts you. First you try and work it out yourself. Directly. Face to face. If that doesn’t work, then you bring in a trusted third party. And, if that also fails, then you being it to the whole assembly. If this third plea falls of deaf ears, you walk away, and let it go.
There’s great wisdom here, if we’re willing to listen. If we’re willing to do the more difficult thing. It’s easier to skip everything else and move right to step #4 and walk away. It’s easier to talk yourself out of step #1, and just forget the whole thing even happened. It’s easier to just shut down if step #1 doesn’t work.
Reconciliation is hard. But, homes and friends and communities and churches who do the hard work not only get through the bad times, but they are stronger for it. And, their love has a tensile quality to it, for it was hard fought.