“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” (Matthew 18:15)
In teaching us to pray, Jesus added the phrase “as we forgive those who sin against us” because He knows that people must offend us. We cannot avoid being offended but we can always avoid anger, bitterness, malice and hatred. Today, Jesus suggests steps we are to take in seeking reconciliation.
Step 1: Go to the person who has hurt you and discuss ONE on ONE with him or her. (Matthew 18:15). Avoid having to tell others without first, this is gossiping and it damages the image of the one who has offended you. Jesus says “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15).
Step 2: If your brother refuses to be reconciled, that is when you may invite one or two persons bit if these persons are unable to intervene, then you may proceed to step three.
Step 3: Invite the church, that is, mention it to the elders in the church (or your pastor). Jesus says: “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.” (Matthew 18:17-18)
By rejecting the church, the person could then be treated as an unbeliever. The truth is that this applies even to those who reject the teachings of the Church, yet claim to remain members of the church. Nevertheless, there remains one last step.
Step 4: Prayer. Jesus says: “When two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20). Very often, we forget this last step. It is not enough that we make efforts to win back those who offend us, we must also pray that God would touch their hearts to repent.
Finally, let us reflect on St. Paul’s advice: “Brother goes to the law against another brother, and before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong?.” (1 Corinthians 6:6-7).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the wisdom to act right and forgive when someone sins against me. Amen
Bible Study: Deut. 34:1-12, Psalm 66 & Matthew 18:15-20).