“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.
Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
In the gospel, Jesus advises a progressive approach to conflict resolution in our relationships with others. Start with a private conversation, include others only in so far as it is necessary to establish the facts of the situation, include the broader community if the prior two steps have not worked, and have nothing to do with the person if everything fails. It is very practical advice and resonates with my own experience.
As I reflect today, it seems two very important concepts are at work in this advice. The first I phrase in the form of a question, what does love require? In any conflict situation I find myself most often unsure what to do or say. Answering this question gives me trusted guidance. The second is also best put in the form of a question, what is the truth of the matter? Truth can be tricky, from different angles it might mean different things to different people. Reasonable and loving people can disagree. And yet it is important to call out the truth as best we see it.
Let that dance between love and truth, informed by the Holy Spirit, guide us and our world as we work through the inevitable conflicts of life.
—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
—Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr
Please share the Good Word with your friends!