15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16 But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17 But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. 18 I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.
I’ll admit it.
I’ve been watching copious amounts of cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. Yes, I’ve been doing so before Thanksgiving. Judge me if you will, they bring me joy.
If you’ve ever watched some of these movies, then you’re all too familiar with how each and every one of them goes: Within the first five minutes, you get a basic sense of who our key players are and who will, inevitably, jump to a conclusion about another, not articulate that to them, but make some drastic choice on their own over a misunderstanding. Everyone gets mad until the situation is clarified by those involved.
If he had only asked her to clarify, he’d know that he’d missed the beginning part of that sentence he eavesdropped in on where she said she was going to stay in-town! Why didn’t he just ask?!
Though there are many aspects of these films that are quite over-dramatized, that’s one element that is actually pretty realistic. We make decisions but don’t always tell everyone who should probably be told. We get annoyed with someone, and only tell our friend, not the person who we’re mad at.
Today’s text gives us sort of a cheat sheet into how to handle a conflict, and the first step in particular stands out to me; if you have an issue with someone – go tell them! If someone says something that hurts my feelings, I should take that up with them. But what do we usually do? We tell our other friend and then we both act sort of distant from that person and they have no idea why because they weren’t aware of the problem!
Of course, that doesn’t solve all problems, which is why Christ gives a roadmap on what to do next, like bringing a trusted mediator into the argument. But this is an essential first step in solving conflict: articulate the issue clearly to those involved in such a way that the other person can repeat it back. Problems are easier to solve when everyone knows what the problem is.
By Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
Can you think of a time that a misunderstanding caused a conflict in your life? What could have been done better? What steps can you take next time so that that doesn’t happen again?
Prayer: Lord, your Word offers us so much guidance that we read then ignore. Breathe your Word into us, Lord, so that it may become part of who we are. When conflicts arise guide us toward solving it in open and honest ways so that you may be honored in all that we say and do. Amen.