“For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18)
Hopefully the image is easily recognized from the classic mafia movie Goodfellas. Although the families in such movies (i.e. Corleone family in The Godfather) are usually Roman Catholic, there’s not much they do together where you picture Christ being “in the midst of them”. However, that’s not the reason I decided to use that image.
Instead, in the five versus prior to the scripture above, Matthew describes a process of conflict resolution that I find…unique and more related to the way a “connected” family (like those in Goodfellas) might handle these things. You can click HERE to read the entire passage or read below for more a simplified look at how Christ has asked us to resolve sins against each other. So, if someone sins against you…
Step 1: Confront that person one-on-one.
Step 2: Take 2-3 friends with you and confront that person again.
Step 3: Ask the Church (ordained clergy) to act as an arbitrator.
Step 4: If the sin has still not been resolved, kick them to the curb!
Consider this approach as the person who has been sinned against. Have you ever asked 2 or 3 of your friends to “gang up” on someone who has sinned against you? Cue the music…in walks Joe Pesci with three of his friends to confront you with; “You got a problem with me? I think you owe me an apology…or I’m gonna bury you in 4 feet of concrete!” Again, not what Christ meant, but this can be a very touchy step in resolving something with someone that matters to you. Some other adaptations of Step 2:
A. Ask a mutual friend to step in on your behalf. This person can appear independent which might allow the ‘sinner’ to drop their guard long enough to hear the truth.
B. Invite the ‘sinner’ out with a couple of your friends, but do not talk about the issue at hand. Instead, let the person be reminded of the friendship you once had. Being told to apologize never works, but being reminded of how much you both care for each other can trigger an apology.
C. I’ve rarely found a sin to be entirely one-sided. Maybe take a long look at the situation and find your involvement with the sin to see if there’s anything, regardless of how small it is, that you need to apologize for. You showing humility by initiating the apology could make the larger apology go much easier.
As for Step 3, I’ve never tried it. You? I love the idea of it though. Flip your role in this situation to the sinner and imagine a priest approaching you about a situation you were involved with that hurt the feelings of another person. I don’t know about you, but their opinion and perspective of the situation is something I would accept like the Gospel! Maybe it’s worth trying?
Lastly is Step 4. At first, I thought this was an unacceptable solution to a problem with another person. I thought, there has to be a way to reconcile. However, as I think back over the past 10-15 years, I can think of a couple people that I’ve fallen away from due to a “difference”. I know there was effort to resolve it, maybe not like the way Christ described above, but a lot of effort nonetheless. Sometimes, there are people we come in contact with that are not supposed to be permanent parts of our lives. Letting go is OK, but I think only if we’ve made every effort possible to reconcile.