Yesterday a friend of mine asked me what the Bible says to do when someone has “royally screwed you” (ok, his words were stronger, but you get the idea). He said he already has his lawyers in contact with the offender. It made me think of this post from several years ago…
John said, “I think you need to do a Matthew 18:15.”
No, no, NO! Anything but that! Not that Uncomfortable Thing. Not that Truth-Telling thing. Not admitting that someone has the power to actually ding me.
“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again.” Mt. 18:15, 16 MSG
Those are some of the sentences I’d like to cut out of my Bible.
Ugh. And double-ugh.
I really like it that I grew up in a family that was super nice and basically devoid of conflict. Ok, maybe we stuffed a little, but still… We were nice dang it!
John’s comment came after I had read an email that was the last in a line of correspondence that left me feeling hurt, ticked and frankly baffled.
My natural response was withdraw. And vent.
But I preferred to frame it as “shaking the dust off my shoes” and moving on.
Who likes confrontation? Maybe Simon Cowell or Nancy Grace or Rush Limbaugh. But not me or you. We’re not pot-stirrers for Pete’s sake!
Why do most of us hate this sticky business of coming clean with one another? Naming the offense?
- It allows us to hold onto our self-righteousness without the hard work of understaning another point of view.
- If promotes an illusion of safety. Having a face to face conversation feels risky. What if I get hurt more? What if (gasp) I’m wrong?
- It projects an image of submission and nicety. We don’t want the label of being high maintenance or overly sensitive.
Not everything is a Matthew 18:15 issue.
Proverbs 19:11 says “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” There are those dings we cover with grace like a bandaid. They heal and we move on.
But then there are those wounds that require us to examine our own heart and, with humility, bring the situation to the attention of another.
I love the idea of Romans 12:18.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
But living at peace doesn’t mean denial, or stuffing or withdrawal, all of which would be preferable in my book to, you know…actually talking about it.
So why is this so important?
I wrote the other day about a group of us trying memorizing Matthew 5-7 – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Here’s the thing…Our goal isn’t just get through the Sermon on the Mount. We want to get the Sermon on the Mount through us!
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus puts a high value on everything involved with this process of conflict resolution – bringing things to light instead of hiding them in the darkness, unity rather than division, understanding and compassion rather than pride.
Several of my partners in this project are friends who are traveling in the Middle East right now, pursuing peace and understanding on a global level. But if we can’t get it right in our own lives we can’t get it right half-way around the world, right?
So, as uncomfortable as it is, I’m going to set up a time to sit down across from my friend, question for better understanding, and have the hard conversation.
What’s been your experience with this Matthew 18:15 stuff?