Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church. If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:15-20)
The formula in today’s scripture passage is correct in its direction but often maligned in its application. There are those who twist the logic of the words of Jesus to justify criticism of another or, worse yet, to put another down while claiming the need to “correct.”
I have no issue with loving and fraternal correction. But I suggest that we have to start at a different place.
Correction always requires balance and the best way to accomplish that is to return to the words of Jesus. In this case, we start with these: “I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
He knows that our journey on this side of eternity will be imperfect, both because of the sufferings and sins we cause, and what others do to us. No suffering or hurt is hidden from him. Still, it is life, not death, that he desires. So, he invites us to take on his gaze and heart: Only then can we go to our brother who has hurt us, and with forgiveness, love, patience, and prudence seek to bring him back to the light. Doing so always brings us back to the heart of Christ and of his Church.
We now live in a society where angry words and actions are the coin of the realm. Hurt, criticism, cruel innuendo permeates the media and many use their public pulpits to encourage more. It seems that now, more than ever, people judge and feel free to judge. There are many negative endings from that conduct. It also leaves many experiencing hurt and vulnerability.
Too often in life, the clearest sign that a person is a mess inside is when he or she starts criticizing everyone else; a common, unconscious psychological diversion is to try to forget about our own problems is by focusing on everyone else’s issues
But Jesus says to all of us who have fallen into this trap that first we must take the logs out of our own eyes so that we can see clearly to help others take the specks out of theirs. Notice that Jesus does not say, “If you’ve got your own issues, don’t give fraternal correction to others, don’t help them remove whatever is blinding them.” But he wants us to be doing so exclusively out of love, which is why we have to notice our own failings and be working on them first. It’s when we start to see ourselves clearly that we can give effective fraternal correction, not as a hypocrite who doesn’t practice what he preaches, but as a humble fellow sinner trying to help a brother or a sister do better, uniting with him in the name of the Lord to battle sin together.
The Lord Jesus wants to set us free from resentment, ill-will, and an unwillingness to forgive. The love of Christ both purifies and sets us free to do good to all – even those who cause us grief. The call to accountability for what we have done and have failed to do is inevitable and we can’t escape it, both in this life and at the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus will return.
But while we have the opportunity today, we must not give up on praying for those who cause us offense. With God’s help we must seek to make every effort to win them with the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of your healing love and peace. Give me wisdom and courage to bring your healing love and saving truth to those in need of healing and restoration.”
If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it face to face. If this fails in its purpose, then the second step is to bring another person or persons, someone who is wise and gracious rather than someone who is hot-tempered or judgmental. The goal is not so much to put the offender on trial, but to persuade the offender to see the wrong and to be reconciled. The emphasis here is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Christians who hopefully will pray and seek a solution for reconciliation based on Christian love and wisdom, rather than relying on coercive force or threats.