I just made a phone call this morning that I have been dreading for a couple of weeks. I did not have a conversation, I left a message. But already I feel a little better.
The person I called is someone to whom I made a promise that I didn’t keep. I am terribly sorry about this and want to make amends, but I fear the encounter. It will be scary to ask for forgiveness. It always is.
Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew spurred me on. If you know that your brother or sister has something against you, reconcile with them, Jesus says. Make that your first priority, even before giving gifts to God. In the topsy-turvy teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, he is letting his followers know that our relationships with one another are paramount, and that they need to be kept clean. The grudges we carry that make us lash out are not okay. They keep us from unconditional love and from peace.
However, he does not say, “if you have something against your brother or sister’, but rather “if your brother or sister has something against you.” We have to be willing to look at things from the other person’s point of view, and we have to be willing to stretch into reconciliation even in those instances when we don’t think we did anything wrong.
Often it takes a wise and loving community to help us discern our responsibility in a conflict. There are situations in which we need help to reconcile with another person, and there are situations in which it is simply impossible to come to resolution.
The bottom line, though, is that this work is of the first importance. Christian community is sacred. Because we are human we will always hurt one another. But because we belong to Christ we must always move through our pain to the place where we can be forgiven and where we can forgive.