Wading in the Mud

September 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

The Gospel lesson for Sunday is Matthew 18:15-20 which concerns the process for dealing with conflict and sin in the church. I found myself using this passage many times to help a congregation and its pastor to find its way through difficulty. But "just because the Bible says it" doesn't make it easy or even helpful. Most of the time I felt like I was wading in mud, and sometimes I was up to my neck.

What I found helpful was that sometimes wronged people need to deal with an issue face-to-face. It did not work, nor did I do it, with an abuser who would victimize, terrorize, and manipulate the one they harmed all over again. In other situations, I hear that it is important to be honest and vulnerable and genuinely to listen to the other. It is difficult to extend or experience forgiveness without being willing to listen. And it is difficult to experience forgiveness without some intention to live differently. The Bible calls that repentance.

What I found to be a problem was that congregations were generally unwilling to confront persons who were harming the church by their arrogance or meanness or gossiping ways. I fail to understand why the most destructive persons in a church are tolerated. They complain about them, but no one wants to deal with them. And if they are substantial financial givers, then it will never happen.

And then we hear these words to treat the unrepentant as tax collectors or Gentiles. Hmmm... Jesus loved the sinners and the outcast and the marginalized. And Matthew continues next week with the question of whether there is a limit to the number of times we ought to forgive. I'm glad for the grace. And I think it goes all the way down in the mud.

 


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