The reflection for this week is by Local Preacher, Adam Biddlestone.
All our human relationships should be built on the foundation of love. ‘Loving one another’ or ‘loving our neighbour as ourselves’ is a concept that can be of huge benefit to us all. If we do this, then we will behave decently towards each other (Romans 13 : 13) and hopefully avoid having to deal with issues of sin and division that Jesus offers advice on in our Gospel reading this week.
If only, we are all human and human relationships are complex and complicated. We have very fixed ideas on how things should be done, we can be stubborn and self-centred, often seeing our views and desires as the most important. All churches can testify to difficulties arising out of our individual characters, personalities and opinions and how this can lead to tensions and conflicts between members, often over the most trivial of matters. When left unresolved, difficulties grow, relationships break down and the whole church community can suffer as a result. Jesus’ words offer advice about the stages we should go through to resolves issues that exist in the church, where one member feels another has sinned against them. If the two people meeting to discuss the issues fails, then bring in one or two others to mediate, if this fails then it becomes a matter for the whole church to address and resolve. And if that doesn’t work then, ‘treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.’ (18 : 17). This is the advice, maybe our protocols of conflict resolution and complaints are built on these stages.
Jesus’ closing words are, ‘for where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.’
(Matthew 18 : 20). So, whenever we are in the company of another person Jesus is present with us. Often when we meet as Christians we begin and end our time together in prayer, acknowledging His presence with us and seeking his guidance. This is especially important where the issues to be discussed are contentious or those gathered have differing views or difficult decisions are to be made. Christian love should always be at the heart of our conversations and relationships, the willingness to listen to and value each other is important.
There are times when relationships do break down, between colleagues in the workplace, neighbours in the street, members in a family, worshippers in a church, partners in a marriage and much time and effort has been given trying to resolve issues and tensions. Situations like these can be painful and draining, whether we are directly involved or they involve people and contexts we care about. Sometimes ending the relationship by resigning, moving to another church, separating can be the only solution that can enable individuals to move on, for healing and transformation to happen. Out of the pain can come new healthy, loving relationships which lead to a greater sense of happiness and peace where a new love can flourish and a new purpose be found. Paul reminds us in Romans that the day is near, ‘our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.’ (13 : 11 – 12). None of us know the time when our earthly lives will end, each encounter with another person could be the last. We may never have an opportunity to put right words or actions we regret. Life is short, too short to live in relationships that are painful and broken. Sometimes, the loving thing to do for ourselves and others is to end relationships, to move on, to create an ending leading to new beginnings.
Lord, we pray for those involved in difficult and painful relationships, where pain is felt and conflict is real. Bring healing to the people and places involved, enable a fresh sense of direction and purpose to be found in resolving issues.
Bring peace to the brokenness and transformation to the lives of those involved.