Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Dealing with Conflict
While the cover’s descending dove reassures us of God’s continuing blessing upon God’s children, sadly, all is not well in the family of God. Many issues conflict us. As a church we face diminishing numbers, closing congregations, lack of clergy candidates; nationally we are divided by the political, social, cultural, and racial issues that prohibit us from being what God calls us to be.
Most of us are aware of varieties of twelve-step self-help programs. But are we aware of Scripture’s three-step program for handling conflict laid out in Matthew 18:15–20? What would result if individually, in families, as congregations, we actually turned to Scripture to settle our differences? Powerful possibilities to be sure! Hear what Jesus suggests, even commands:
Step One: “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!” This sounds easy, but can we reach across the chasms of resentment, bitterness, and anger toward others?
Step Two: “If you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you” as witnesses. What joy there will be if you are heard, with forgiveness offered and accepted! Yet this overture may well be rejected, and the anguish continues. But you’ve tried.
Step Three: “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.” Has Jesus given up on people? In no way. Remember Jesus’ compassion toward Gentiles and tax collectors, never giving up hope. And neither should we give up on each other.
One more thing: “Pray ceaselessly, for one another, in all circumstances!”
Paul Graf, bishop of the Moravian Unity
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin