How we relate to one another as a Christian community is the deep concern in God’s heart
The Gospel according to Matthew was, in the context of the time, a Gospel for the Jews. It presents a distinctive vision of God revealed by Jesus. Matthew has Jesus himself teaching to this community on the law of love and the deep concern in God’s heart for communities to flourish in peace and love.
In this passage, Jesus was not so much providing a step by step plan to settle differences but rather he was making a statement about a communal life based on love. However, the reality is that people disagree and fight. The need to be right and to dominate is at the heart of all personal, communal and global discord.
Jesus requires that as Christians we find the courage and love to speak to each other when issues that threaten relationship arise, and to listen to each other with humility and forgiveness.
All roads in Jesus’ teaching lead to love, forgiveness and reconciliation, and this passage is no exception. How then, as Christians, should disputes be settled?
Sometimes help is needed for parties to resolve differences but in most cases the starting point lies within one’s own heart. Do we value the desire for connection over the need to be right? Do we assume goodwill on the part of the other, or take offence at the drop of a hat? Are we curious about what others’ behaviour might be communicating rather than automatically condemning? Does our conversation seek to understand or is it blaming and accusatory? All good psychology would lead in the positive direction but Jesus is not speaking of a technology of the mind but of taking on the mind of Christ as true disciples.
We live in particular times of broken political systems, institutions and communities. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew calls us all to live in community according to his law of love to realise the vision, here and now, that is of deep concern in God’s heart. May our reflection lead us to reach out to those with whom we have disputes, and to those who may have dispute with us, to let go of old arguments and perceived hurts, to assume goodwill on the part of others and seek wise help when needed. In deep and prayerful union with Jesus he can change us to change the world.