Jesus’ Teachings on Reproving Another Who Sins
15“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. 16But 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. 17If 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.” ~ (Matthew 18:15-17)
My family of origin never taught me the art of healthy communication. I do not remember being encouraged to first go directly to someone who may have offended me. Like the adults in our lives, my sisters and I would complain about one another behind each other’s backs instead. Of course, this approach never really worked things out. Instead, the wrongs, imagined or real, simply festered and continued to do their damage.
Jesus, however, clearly teaches that if we believe someone has wronged us, we should first go to them directly, in private, and seek to work it out. If this initial attempt proves unsuccessful, try again, but this time take one or two neutral parties along to help you work things out and to act as witnesses. Again, this is done in private. Only after these direct attempts at clarification and reconciliation fail do we then take the matter to more people or a greater authority. The whole point of this healthy approach to communications is reconciliation and an attempt to preserve community.
There is a caveat that I would add to Jesus’ teaching. Do not put yourself back into a situation of danger. If you are a victim of abuse, especially physical or sexual abuse, never go back to the perpetrator alone. First, go to the authorities. Reconciliation can be worked out later.
Church life is akin to family life. We need to practice direct communication Jesus style with one another as well. This applies equally to clergy. Otherwise, the wrongs, imagined or real, will simply fester and continue to damage our sense of community.
Fr. Dan Hinkle
+ P.S. Remember to vote on Tuesday, November 6th, 2018. It is our civic duty as American Christians.
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