Jesus knew that wherever two or three are gathered together in the name of pride that there would be a conflict. No two people are alike, even twins. Knowing that there would be conflict, Jesus gave us clear steps in order to resolve our differences.
The three steps are the least used directives in the entire Bible. We know them, but often ignore the directives, especially when we are angry, most of all if we know that we are right and the other person is wrong! When a conflict arises we are suppose to go to the person and talk with him/her. We are supposed to keep the issue between the two of us alone. Rarely happens. The mother-in-law, the father-in-law, the neighbor, the boss, the superintendent—everybody is invited to listen to our grief. Just comes out because we are so convinced of the other person’s guilt that we destroy them in front any listening ear. Facebook is loaded with direct attacks. Profanity is used without consideration for the innocent. No doubt that social media is abused to air out some of our frustrations. Keep in mind that the person with whom we are angry sometimes is unaware of our anger. That’s why the first step is so important. A face-to-face encounter is vital in the resolution of any conflict—Not texting, not a phone call, not a letter. There is no substitute for a face-to-face dialogue. However, there are no guaranties, especially if the problem has had a long history. Just because we decide to speak with someone about a conflict does not mean that they will agree or be willing to make peace. A mediator might be necessary.
If we bump into a wall with the first step we are not to throw our hands in the air and quit. That’s when we speak with someone else to get help. A third ear can make a difference. Someone who can be objective, perhaps someone who is unfamiliar with the situation—a counselor, a priest, an unbiased friend. The ideal is to sit with the third party at the same time. Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the meeting. One witness, two or three witnesses can be helpful, but not 50! Rumors fly. Juicy gossip is still popular. Our conflicts should not be featured in conversations. We have to discern what is private and what can be public. When people really care for each other than all things are possible. When respect has been lost, there is no reason to talk.
Negativity does not build the Kingdom. Reconciliation, forgiveness, love—they build the Kingdom. Since Jesus gave us great power to bind or to loosen—to hold on to the negative or to let go—with effects unto eternity—our responsibility is enormous. The Church—all of us—are affected by reconciliation or when hurt is perpetuated. Are we not a family of families? Aren’t the majority of our families wounded? Time to talk. Spend time with each other. Listen to the pain. When we’ve done wrong, apologize. When we’ve been wronged, forgive. “If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” Jesus described Excommunication—not to listen to the church is to refuse to be church—to refuse to live in community. Then we separate ourselves from the Body of Christ, which is the same as living in darkness. None of us want to live outside of Christ. The way to live in Christ is to live with each other, in good times and in bad times. Community is not easy but possible—starts at home.
Conflicts will inevitably arise. Jesus has given us the steps to follow. The Lord also gives us the grace to forgive one another.