More Than a Suggestion
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)
I don’t guess you would call be a messy person; what you would call me is a “slob.” All my life I have suffered as a “neatness-challenged” person. The biggest ongoing battle that I had with my parents was when they tried to get me to clean my room. And I would clean it, but then a few hours later it was messy again. That was a bone of contention in my marriage, and peace was not realized on that front until we moved into a house where I could have my own room that I can keep just as messy as I want. The irony is that because we bought my parent’s house when they moved back to Arkansas—the room I kept messy as a kid and the room that I keep messy now is the SAME ROOM.
I hated the idea that they expected me to make up my bunk when I went to summer camp. So my brilliant work-around was to sleep on top of my made-up bunk so I didn’t have to make it up in the morning! Just smooth out the wrinkles and I was done! I hated cleaning so much that I chose not to mess up! If my grandmother was still around, she would tell you about me stuffing my sheets and blanket under the bed and calling throwing the bedspread on top “making my bed.” I used to have a sing on my desk that read, "A Clean Desk is a Sign of a Sick Mind." At least I think it was on my desk!
The text above (our Jan 30 reading) is probably one of the most ignored in the New Testament. For some reason, we take Jesus' instructions here as mere suggestions. So when we get our feelings hurt over some big-or-small personal slight, we will sulk or talk (gossip) to other people or simply avoid the person who hurt us. We will do everything except what Jesus tells us-- to go to the person and work toward reconciliation. The reason is simple. It is HARD to confront someone who has hurt us! And it is even HARDER to do that with a humble and gentle spirit that seeks reconciliation more than "justice." Could that be part of the point?
Maybe if we were totally faithful in going to meet and reconcile with everyone who treats us badly, then maybe we would all be MORE CAREFUL with our own behavior. Face it, Jesus’ process for dealing with those who sin against us is a lot of work! If we did that every time someone offended us (or we offended someone else), we might not get much else done! So maybe we would be more careful not to allow our feelings to get hurt too easily-- or to hurt others. In other words, if we knew that we would have to clean up every mess we made in our interpersonal lives, then we would be more careful not to make a mess! It is always easier not to make a mess than it is to clean one up!