Here’s my fantasy: A skilled mediator meets in private with two government leaders from opposing sides of the aisle, coaching each of them to listen attentively to the other until they each could articulate the other‘s position to his (or her) satisfaction. Each of them would keep trying until his adversary would smile involuntarily, and say, “Yeah, that’s right; you completely understand.” Then, and only then, they could look for any area of common understanding, Hopefully, they could proceed from there, working together to govern in a harmonious way. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Much of that scenario comes from principles Jesus taught His followers about settling disputes:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he 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.” (Matthew 18:15-17)
Notice these important principles:
- Reconciliation works best when the parties meet in private.
- If you are feeling wounded, take personal responsibility to initiate reconciliation.
- Listening is the key to understanding.
- If you cannot agree, still keep it small and private, but bring in a couple of neutral witnesses because it is possible that you are wrong.
The last part of Jesus’ teaching pertains especially to followers of Jesus in a church setting. Local churches are supposed to operate as a bodies. If a part of your body has caused hurt to the rest of your body, the rest of your body acts in a united way to take care of it, to bring the offending part back into line. For example, perhaps you have heartburn: your whole body gets up and goes to get an antacid. You chew it and swallow it, working to restore peace. When such a thing happens in a church and is not resolved easily in private, it is necessary to see if, working together, the whole church body can restore harmony.
If not, Jesus says, “…treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (the worst example of a social outcast). How does Jesus teach us to treat pagans and outcasts? He commands us to love them and tell them about the good news! To reach out to them and invite them into the fellowship of Jesus’ followers in the Kingdom of Heaven.
I know, I know: ain’t no way Congress is going to resemble the Kingdom of Heaven. But my prayer is for the believing Senators and Representatives to obey Jesus and start acting as though it could.