Today’s Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20
Ah, conflict resolution. As a preschool teacher I had the whole methodology down pat. Get both sides of the story, model reflective listening, negotiate a fair resolution, shake hands and move on. Simple. Well, even with 3 year olds, that was always not very smooth or simple, but I knew what to do – I had a plan of action.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is providing us a plan of action. Biblical conflict resolution 101. The ultimate “What Would Jesus Do” moment. Jesus is reminding us to bring the issue to the person who has upset or hurt us, not share it with everyone who will listen, including the unsuspecting woman behind me in the grocery line, or dental hygienist who can’t get my mouth filled fast enough with cleaning equipment. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, then you bring along a person or two to help navigate the discussion. A mediator or witness – a neutral party (not the cavalry to gang up on the person) — who may help “so that every fact may be established.” Lastly, if resolution is still unable to be reached, we bring in the big guns, the Church. Again, this does not mean we tell every church member we come in contact that week the problem we are having in an effort to gather allies, but seek the counsel of the Church, perhaps in a priest or deacon, either with that person we are in conflict with or at least for ourselves.
Just like my work with the little ones, this resolution plan will look differently for each unique situation. This is merely a blueprint. In the classroom, I had to take into account the child’s temperament and personal experiences with forgiving and being forgiven. Honestly, some situations are not meant to be resolved in this reconciliatory way, so we need to always turn to those terrific gifts God bestows upon us of prudence, wisdom and right judgment (among others we attain from the Holy Spirit).
Regardless of how we proceed, as I read today’s Gospel, I could not help marvel at how there is truly no situation the Lord has not provided a teaching in or guideline for.
Is there anyone I am presently at odds with in? How have I been handling the situation? How does my methodology align with what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 18?
Lord, my heart is overwhelmed by your concern in every aspect of my life. Thank you for providing me guidance to restore peace to the inevitable strife I will encounter. Please increase your Holy Spirit within me in every situation that I may always properly discern what course of action you are calling me to. Help me to forgive others, so that my heart may be always ready to fully receive your forgiveness.
Copyright 2014 Allison Gingras