Today’s reading from Matthew has two interesting points. First, Jesus gives us practical ways to handle conflict. Make note of the fault; if that doesn’t work, find witnesses; if that doesn’t work, tell the church; and if that doesn’t work (and only if that doesn’t work), it seems as though you have permission to give up. But then JC moves in a different direction. He says,
Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:18-20, NRSV)
See, he starts by providing a checklist of dealing with conflict, but ultimately lands at reconciliation. Any anger or frustration you hold for another member of the body of Christ (or church, or community, or school, or social network) is an opportunity for forgiveness. Every encounter is an opportunity for compromise. Every death is an opportunity for new life.
Over the past several weeks, we have had a number of readings about being the body of Christ. Any time you get that many people together (over 2 billion Christians in the world!), there’s bound to be disagreement. But the good news is that Christ is with us whether we agree or not, binding us together on earth and in heaven.
So the next time someone ticks you off, remember Jesus’ suggestions. Do whatever you can to reconcile, remembering that ultimately, Christ is present in every human relationship.