If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18: 15 (ESV)
Some months ago, a neighbor flagged me down as I was driving our street. She came to the car and started a litany of anger about a third neighbor, complaints dealing with noise, parked car spots and trash cans. She proceeded to share the neighbors she had already spoken to and who was as upset and bothered as she. She then asked what I thought about their transgressions. I had to admit I honestly hadn’t noticed. When I asked what the offending neighbor’s said, she hadn’t spoken to them.
I thought about her when I read this scripture. She was so worked up, had clearly lost any sense of peace or serenity, had found someone else willing to feed her anger, but had never spoken directly to the people she had the issue with.
We can all be guilty of this. Whether we want to avoid conflict, are afraid we could make a situation worse or because we think we already know that they will respond negatively, we find someone to agree with us but never go to the source. This is especially damaging in church as it creates a series of us and them. It creates a climate of simmering hostility. It destroys our common soul. Like ripples from a stone in a lake, it spreads.
We need honest, compassionate, conversation about differences, We need to avoid defensiveness when we are approached. And we each need to be ready to encourage others to speak directly, not commiserate and feed the cycle.
Feel free to call me if you need help getting started. Definitely call me if you have a need, concern or complaint that involves me. Let’s work toward a community based on love, honesty and mutual respect, the Kingdom of God.
P.S. While working on this message, John came home to tell me our new neighbors (the upset neighbor sold their house and moved away) had called to introduce themselves and discuss an upcoming situation. Due to the pandemic, their October wedding was being moved from Liberty Mountain Resort to their yard. They wanted to be sure the noise and the additional cars wouldn’t be an imposition.
I hope they have a beautiful day.