We started this week with the theme of peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9). In today’s text, Jesus warns about what happens when we don’t pursue peace. He asks us to consider how anger grows, deeply divides, and eventually destroys us. When we experience conflict with someone, Jesus says that we should be reconciled (v. 24) and [c]ome to terms quickly (v. 25). These are words to remember when challenges rise among us.
Years ago, I saw this passage spelled out in a church’s official documents as the first procedure for resolving conflict between its members. It makes sense for any Christian community to first seek Jesus’ teaching for guidance on the matter. In practice though, how many faith communities help members navigate conflict by studying verses like these? Not all conflicts are alike and some attempts at peacemaking could could cause more harm than help if the community doesn’t give proper attention to the problem. Consider those experiencing trauma or dealing with difficult power dynamics or personalities. Forgiveness and reconciliation should always free people, not further oppress them.
But when we dig deeply into the message of Jesus and take this practice seriously, amazing things emerge. We can practice this form of making peace in our own lives and community in ways that we’ve overlooked. We could more fully support those who struggle with this process of reconciliation and need helpful resources to reach a resolution. Maybe Jesus’ way here is something our congregations could talk about more openly and explore for the benefit of individuals and the church as a whole.
What does forgiveness look like in my life? What does forgiveness look like in my community of faith?
God, as we seek to better follow you in our community, help us become more patient and understanding with ourselves and others. Amen.