For where two or three are gathered—there is a difference of opinion. Opinions are like bellybuttons, everybody’s got one. Jesus knew that we would get into disputes, so He gave us clear steps when differences arise.
The first step is to go to the person with whom we have a grievance. Keep the issue private—between us and the person whom we feel has wronged us. But that’s not what happens in real life. We want everybody to know. If we could put the situation in the news, we would. We tell our family, our neighbors, the postman—anyone willing to listen. Because when we have been offended, we want an audience. There is strength in numbers. Logical to assume that the more folks who see things our way, the better our chance is of being right. In the process we have engaged in gossip. The real meaning of gossip is speaking maliciously about someone without them being present to defend themselves. As we repeat the story the facts can become exaggerated, even to the point that we believe our exaggeration. When we were children, and another child threw a spit watt at us, we ran to the teacher. In the retelling of the incident the spit watt might have become a rock. Children often run to an authority figure when they feel injured, insulted or threatened. Appealing to authority is at times inevitable. Yet, Jesus says that authority or the church should be a last resort.
Consider the amount of energy that could be saved if we first went to the person who has wronged us. A massive amount of heartache can be avoided by following the directive that Jesus outlined. Confrontation means that we value a relationship so much that we do not want to see the relationship damaged by a misunderstanding. “Can we work this out? Are we willing to give ourselves another chance?” Nothing to lose, everything to gain. Means that we must lower our pride, humble ourselves, take the time to reach out to someone whom we would rather avoid. Some families have avoided speaking with each other for years. They rather keep their distance than confront a painful situation. “Because your dog bit my dog 20 years ago….” Both dogs are dead, but the fight continues. Some folks have forgotten why they aren’t speaking to each other; they just know that they are not going to be the first to say, “I’m sorry”. Unfortunately for many people, money is valued more than family, more than friendship. Possessions, inheritance, titles are placed above relationships. Folks drag each other to court about stuff that could have been resolved by simple conversation.
The devil laughs at our stupidity for not following a simple directive. We get into a lot of trouble when resentments fill our heart. “Whatever we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever we loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Simply stated: there are eternal repercussions to our thoughts, words and actions. If we die holding a grudge, that’s why Purgatory is a reality—a dogmatic truth of the Church. We have a choice—to bind or to let go. If we have difficulty forgiving ourselves, chances are that we are going to have difficulty forgiving others. Some folks get into arguments with the TV! Or a parked car! Or with an automated machine! Such behavior speaks of a long tail of resentments—the recipe for a heart attack. The negativity can build up inside. Little wonder that if we take problems to bed, we will have trouble sleeping. “Do not let the sun set on your anger.” Just like we pray an “Act of Contrition” before going to bed, so we should apologize to those with whom we live, if we have offended them throughout the day. “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
Jesus promised that when two people pray, He would listen and grant our request. We can certainly agree that the one thing our world needs is forgiveness. Lord hear our prayer.