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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, September 5, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Matthew 18:15–20

“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.” (NRSV)

When you think about it, much of Jesus’s ministry was, in effect, running a Human Resources department. He hires people, provides them with their job responsibilities, manages their benefits, and here he lays out the process of conflict resolution. He even dealt with government compliance (“Render unto Caesar”) and was constantly thinking about working conditions.

Here, he lays out his format for conflict resolution: Address the individual, bring facilitators, go to the community. It’s all very clear. It’s not a parable. It doesn’t need interpretation. And we still get it wrong.

People look at this scripture and see something like “You’re wrong, I’m going to tell you why you were wrong, and if you don’t listen to me I’ll bring in my friends to watch me tell you why you were wrong, and if you still don’t admit it I’m going to go to everybody and tell them why you were wrong, and then you’ll be an outcast and we’ll all hate you.”

But Jesus doesn’t say the other person has to admit you were right. He says they have to listen. They have to hear you. And this is a message not only to the offended party but to the offender. Jesus is telling us to listen when people bring us a grievance that they have regarding us. Hear them, understand them. Because the goal of the process in not retribution but reconciliation.

In our streets today people are bringing their grievances because they are not being heard any other way. What is the response: to listen to those grievances or tell the voices to be quiet? Do we want reconciliation or just submission?

When any of us are so invested in our position that we can’t listen to the grievances of the community, we become toxic. In the HR world there are consequences to not listening. You get fired.

It’s on each of us to listen. It’s on us to hear what’s being said. And we will be held accountable for how well we do that.

Lord, give us ears to hear the grievances of those who we have wronged. Teach us to listen, so that we can be reconciled and work to reconcile the world. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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