“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one,” reads Matthew 18:15.
This Biblical advice is given within the context of church community. It concerns both an offense and a means to deal with it. (What one determines to be “sin” here is up for debate.)
Instead of complaining to others, triangulating and stirring up trouble, one is urged to first go directly to the other person and talk about the matter.
If the initial effort doesn’t bear fruit, the next step is to bring a couple of friends along as witnesses and try again.
Then, if that doesn’t work, there is cutoff. The offender, who is unwilling to admit blame and ask for forgiveness, is no longer allowed to be a part of the life of that church.
In our day and age, some churches truly practice this and others not so much.
One could argue that this process “isn’t very Christian.” However, a major concern is for the community to be protected from an unrepentant heart and the likelihood of repeat behavior.
The above defines a process that can help avoid haphazard efforts in dealing with messy circumstances.
There are plenty of opportunities in life for us to get into sticky situations. In a perfect world, there would be a rule book for dealing with each of them. However, this isn’t reality.
I think one of the most disheartening examples of this can be the division of property after the passing of both parents.
I do not anticipate this to be the case within my own family, however, I have witnessed many such occasions where matters have gone awry.
Latent feelings, once held as a child long ago, may surprisingly bubble to the surface. Power and greed may rear their ugly heads with the goal of hoarding “stuff.”
One would be wise to heed the general example set in Matthew’s gospel. Namely, there should be a well thought out process when dealing with matters that could potentially go sour.
If you were to die today, have you eased the burden placed upon the executor of your will? Why not work out these details beforehand, so that there are no surprises?
Having the right process, and making all aware long beforehand, could make a world of difference.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.