Conflict is never fun, but frankly, it is inevitable.  Anytime human beings are together, there is a possibility that conflict will arise – even in the best of relationships.  Conflict is seldom pleasant and sometimes people make unproductive choices as they deal with others who have hurt or wronged them.  Avoidance, extreme anger, gossiping, or sulking are among reactions that can hurt relationships and seldom lead to a helpful resolution. 

In this week’s gospel, Jesus offers a set of steps for dealing with conflict with someone in the community of faith. In addition to offering a helpful approach, we also learn about the priorities Jesus desires for his community of followers.  He invites the wronged person to go privately to the other, to deal directly and respectfully.  If that fails to bring resolution, he suggests taking others from the community (who are connected to both people in this conflict) and try again.  If that doesn’t work, Jesus recommends involving the whole community of faith.   Jesus’ advice uses an ever-broadening approach, that requires a real commitment to the relationship.  It needs a willingness to be direct and respectful, reliance on the wisdom of others as the situation continues, an understanding of each other as beloved children of God, and the awareness that not every conflict will be fully resolved.  

Some communities of faith list this passage as their policy in dealing with conflict in the church, though it is not a guaranteed recipe for conflict resolution. Sometimes reconciliation and forgiveness are not possible or take a very long time.  Yet this passage makes clear some of the priorities Jesus wants for his followers: connection within community, commitment to one another, vulnerability with each other, and persistence in difficulty.  He promises that when we gather, Jesus is there among us.  No community is perfect, yet thanks to God’s presence, people who are committed and reconciled are a remarkable presence in the world.      



weekly prayer | Jesus talks about conflict in Matthew 18

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