Matthew 18:15-20 (NRSV)
Verse 15"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. Verse 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. Verse 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Verse 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Verse 19Again, 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. Verse 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
One summer, our high school youth served at a day care in Chicago, helping run the day care and leading Vacation Bible School. It was a hot, difficult, emotional, exhausting, eye-opening, brutal, and beautiful week! As we traveled home, it came to light that one of our youth had lied to others and created tension throughout our week together. In our team covenant, we had used Matthew 18:15-20 as our guideline for dealing with conflict, so our youth and our young adult leader sat in a room together addressing the breach in trust; confronting the issue head on, entering into difficult conversation, and managing the volatile emotions. In the end, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation were achieved late in the evening after hours of conversation. Jesus asks us to wade into difficult territory, and then he promises, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” We need each other in order to experience God, and we need God in order to experience life-giving community.
Healing God, be with us in the midst of difficult conversation, helping us to see each other through your eyes, and moving us towards repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Amen.