Correcting an Offender

Matthew 18:15-20
Deut 34:1-12/Psa 66

If your brother sins, go and point out his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
(Matthew 18:1)

Resolve conflicts without enmity,
More than justice employ charity;
Look for ways where we can all agree
For the sake of peace and harmony.

“If your brother sins (against you), go and point out his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he still refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen I say to you that if two of you on earth agree about anything for which you pray for, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:16-20)

Reflection

As followers of Christ, we all have a moral duty to try to mend broken relationships in the family or community, whether we are the offended party or not. In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord is telling us that more often than not, the person who has offended us may not be aware that he (or she) has done a wrongful or offensive act, and has therefore damaged his relationship with God. Thus, for their own sake, their mistake must be pointed out to them. Correction in this case is not in pursuit of justice, but in loving concern for the other’s spiritual well-being. St. Augustine of Hippo said, “If you fail to do so, you are worse than he is. He has done someone harm, and by doing harm he has stricken himself with a grievous wound. Will you then completely disregard your brother’s wound? Will you simply watch him stumble and fall down? Will you disregard his predicament? If so, you are worse in your silence than he in his abuse.” (Sermon # 32, par.7)

Our Lord tells us that we must exert all efforts to persuade the offending party to face up to his or her transgression, and be willing to reconcile. The assistance of third parties (in a loving community, preferably the elders) may have to be resorted to. If the offender still will not listen, then the matter must be brought to the consideration of the governing council of the community or brotherhood.

In our passion to reconcile with those who are remiss, we must not be afraid to be branded as a “holier than thou” person. After all, Jesus Himself assures us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Mt.5:9). As servant-leaders of our community we understand the importance of promoting harmony and peace among all the members, for it is in this kind of environment that the spiritual development of its members is assured.

Finally, forgiveness may be the essential ingredient needed to make the offending party see the error of his ways. In the Gospel of Luke (17:3), Jesus says, ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him.’ He teaches us that the primary condition for receiving God’s forgiveness is the willingness to forgive others. In the Lord’s Prayer and in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus clearly indicates that “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Mt.6:14-15). The forgiven life is the forgiving life.

Divine Healer, make us instruments of Your peace. Help us to realize that our human errors are at most times unavoidable. None of us is perfect, we all make mistakes, we all fail to understand, and all have been guilty of lack of love or tolerance, especially towards those who are close to us and whom we always seem to take for granted. Give us the grace to have more patience and understanding, for the sake of peace and unity in our community. Amen.

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