“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. But 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. If 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.
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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
I’ve been waiting for an apology. Maybe you have, too. Jesus’ words today make me wonder why I’m waiting. Isn’t the person who injured me responsible for making amends? Don’t they know they should be asking for my forgiveness? Why is Jesus’ asking me to make the first move?
I don’t think a confrontation demanding an apology is quite what Jesus has in mind – it certainly won’t help the other person listen. Considering the course of action that Jesus’ outlines, I’m eager to have others take my side, but it’s the last bit I find curious: if he still refuses to listen “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” The Message paraphrase is “you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” There is no one beyond the reach of God’s love. After I have examined my motivations and understand what I seek for myself and hope for the other person, at each turn, whether one to one, with a few others to assist, or with the entire Church, Jesus is not asking for an escalating attack to punish but to increasingly surround the sinner with God’s greater love, to heal and change their hearts and lives, and ours.
From the very first step Jesus promises to be with us. What are we waiting for!
—Jenene Francis is the provincial assistant for pastoral ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.