Sunday’s passage – Matthew 18:15-20 – gives us some pretty specific steps to take when we find that we are in conflict with each other – when we find ourselves disagreeing with others in the Church. You know — even the most loving, most committed, and most devout of church/community members may find themselves at odds with each other from time to time. Conflict is going to happen. The question is – how do we deal with it?– what do we do about it? Jesus gives us some instructions here in Matthew 18:15-20 of how we can deal with conflict – while walking in love.
In one Peanuts comic strip, Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels. “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asks Linus. “These five fingers,” says Lucy – holding up her hand. “Individually they’re nothing” she says but – as she makes a fist – “When I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.” Linus considers the situation a second – then says: “Which channel do you want?” Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?
In other words, it is how we handle conflict that determines the level of our spiritual maturity! It is so important that we are in right relationship with each other.
We can talk a lot about what it means to be “one in Christ” and to “live in love” with each other – but what does it means to show God’s love to each other and to the world? The truth is, there will come a time when we disagree with each other and find ourselves in conflict with others. We must learn how to walk in love while dealing with conflict.
Eugene Peterson in the Message (Matthew 18:20) says, “Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is a yes in heaven; no on earth is a no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”
Our spiritual tool box should include conflict resolution skills balanced with prayer and love. Whatever our faith tradition, we will reflect the image and light of Christ in the world. In the contemporary words of the Message, what we say to one another matters. St. Benedict’s Holy Rule call us as Benedictine women to forgive ourselves and others before we surrender to sleep so we can be at peace with one another and the world.
Reflection: How am I approaching and resolving conflict with others?
Mary Colleen Schwarz, OSB