We’ve been sitting at Jesus’ feet, pondering his words in Matthew 18 about how to handle conflicts, differences and division in the church. Add Paul’s words in Romans 14:1-12, and we have a recipe for loving our neighbor – in the pew. A summary of how followers of The Way work through their issues might look like this:
- If someone offends you or if you offend someone, go talk face-to-face. That is difficult to do. You might decide that it isn’t worth the effort. If so, go immediately to #5.
- If the two of you can’t be reconciled (meaning to re-connect, to re-align), take it to our Staff-Parish Relations team. If they can’t facilitate reconciliation, it needs to go to our district superintendent. If you don’t want to involve SPR or the DS, go immediately to #5.
- Bless those who leave the church by continuing to care for them and reach out to them.
- If someone comes to you and is complaining about and criticizing another, ask them two questions: Have you spoken to the person involved? If not, ask to go with them to talk to the person involved. If they are unwilling, encourage them to go immediately to #5.
- Forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean what another has done is ok. It means releasing them from your expectations. It means releasing them from the punishment they deserve. It means letting go. When we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we are saying that we can only fully open ourselves to God’s forgiveness if we fully open ourselves to letting go of our grudges.
Whenever I preach, I preach primarily to myself. While it is always a little nerve-wracking for me, an introvert, to get up in front of people to speak publically about – of all things – faith, I am always deeply impacted by the experience. What may seem like a poor sermon to you sinks deeply into me and can’t help but change me. What I was most impacted by this week was Jesus’ story:
A man owed a king a million billion dollars. The king asked him to pay up. The man said that he couldn’t and got down on his knees to beg forgiveness of his debt. The king released him and let him go.
You’d think the man would leave filled with gratitude, but he didn’t. He left grumbling. As he did, he saw a friend who owed him $25. “Pay up,” the man growled. “I can’t,” said the friend. So the man imprisoned his friend in a world of hurt by his refusal to forgive. And the man descended into his own private hell, filled with anger and blame, resentment and grudges.
God whispers to me, “I’ve forgiven you a million billion times. Can you not offer what you have received to others?”
I’m trying. And what I realize is that church is the exact right place to try, to sometimes get it right and sometimes fail, to learn from my mistakes and to keep trying. Over and over, 7 times 70, and beyond.
On the journey with you,