Jesus lays out how to deal with conflict pretty clearly. So why do we have such a hard time doing this?
The instructions are clear – go directly to the person. Don’t run away, don’t play avoidance, passive aggressive, manipulate, escalate, over react, or accuse. If that doesn’t work – then bring another person – because it is about sin (a disconnect between God and a person that affects them and others) – it is not about personal preference. If that doesn’t happen, out of love bring it to leaders in the church who care about the person – the people who are willing to leave the 99 to find the one, the people who greet little children and grow childlike trust and obedience to Christ in the people of God. If the person still doesn’t listen, treat them as you would a tax collector or sinner – which is with love and reaching out, but not the same level of connection – because our connection to each other is through Christ and our intimacy with Him (which sin ruins).
It is about the mindset. Peter asks how many times to forgive. It is sort of a misguided question – what is the limit? Jesus gives a great story with a simple point – treat others the way God has treated you. Are you aware of God’s love in your life? Have you really noticed how much He has forgiven you? I am the person with the million dollar debt; no debt another person has to me can ever compare with the debt of sin I have with the Lord. Do I realize this? Has it actually changed me?
There is an edge to this story…if I don’t get it, if it hasn’t sunk in, then there are serious consequences. Jesus says those who don’t forgive won’t be forgiven. This doesn’t mean that I earn salvation, but if I don’t respond to so great a salvation – it only shows I never accepted it. Someone who has truly accepted this divine forgiveness is changed. God cares about our fruit; we grow our fruit by being united to Christ and submitting to the Holy Spirit.
The instructions and attitude are clear. So why is it so hard for us to deal with sin and conflict as Jesus told us? What do you think? What is the hardest part of this teaching for you to live?