Mathew 18, 15-20 Being Together Constructively
Many know, „Big Brother“. It’s also a TV Show, where People live in a Container and are obsevered through a camera for 24 hours. What they say, eat, feel, is all projected. How they live and who has what with whom. This title is from a book, which George Orwell wrote. He lived from 1930-1950. Before 1948, he tried to Change the time and say what it would be like in 1984. Big Brother was the guarding big dictator and world leader. The recent phone tapping scandal says a lot to us. It is not good to live in a world of, „Big Brother“. Here there is no freedom of Action, no privacy, no gratuitousness, who ever exposes someone or not. Who knows if he or she is being observed, changes his/her behavior. At best, this could lead to doing things better. In the worst case, it could lead to fear and make the People small. What does Big Brother have to do with our reading today? Regarding Mathew, is it about watching others?
It is not about Controlling others. Mathew reminds us about Jesus‘ words taken for granted when dealing with others. If someone behaves in a way that harms or hurts others, that is not made public and widely discussed. In the first step the Person will be approached. Mathew talks here, completely in the Jewish Tradition (Lev. 19, 17) – from a privae conversation about difficult cases. Community should rise again, which has been destroyed through the damaging deed. This is noto about a derogatory way towards someone. It is a conversation in the Spirit of God.
Something else appears important to me, that someone does something is not for the community and Shows that it is harmful, that there is the freedom to act. So no Controlling, no Monitoring. We are all able to act. We are also responsible for our Actions.
It is about the Christian community and about the sibling-like way we act towards each other. Do we have People in the congregation that are like a sister or a brother to us, whom we can trust? A place in the which we can honestly talk about ourselves and our weaknesses or mistakes? What would happen to someone really loaded themselves with heavy guilt? Could we be critical with this Person?
There is the fundamental principle in our community that no one should be left out. There is no ex-communicatio.
Luckily we do not often find someone in our community who has loaded him or herself with heavy guilt. What could this section mean to our community? For how we act with one another? For our congreation?
In General, Jesus luckily did not say to Mathew, „just get over it“: He said, „go and tell the one or another, what is going on“. The Goal is always the functioning, loving community. it is not about rejecting someone or finally being able to let off steam. Often others receive things that have nothing to do with them. So how should we do this?
In today’s reading, Paul gives us a deciding tip: love fulfills the law – let no debt remain outstanding. (Romans 13, 8a). Let no debt remain outstanding – also not a constructive, good criticism – but it has to happen with LOVE. We ow it to everyone, even those who have hurt us, whome we are angry about. A high demand. But this is the only way that true community exists. Because it teaches us to love ourselves but not to place egosim ni the Center. We learn to take ourselves and our Feelings seriously and also to act with respect to others. And hoepfully to understand! Here love does not mean to have a permanent good Feeling but a permanent care about the congregation which Begins with two People. That is why I should tell Christians what is going on – but with love!!!!
How can I practice loving criticism? It is good to first think about – how do I want to express my criticism? How do I feel about it? How does criticism have to hear for me so that I can accept it? Which words, „make me Close up“, hurt me or make me angry? The pointing finger is not a good choice. The Moral Comes from up top, „you should actually know….“ This sounds educational, better knowing, morally. It is pretty certain that the other one will be angry and also that a clarifying conversation will not take place. Depending on the Disposition there is a sharp comment or an icy silence. One side is definitely muzzled and there is a lot of Anger. An injury has occured. It is good to say things in private. „Listen, I have bene thinking….I don’t have a good Feeling….it is difficult for me to say to you…“Saying things in the first Person singular, makes the accusation you want to say not so generalized but I speak from myself. It is also important to be willing to listen to the other, what the Person has to say about what was said. Acting in loving care and the freedom to allow the other. The criticism appears not so quickly so that the other Person changes him/herself. But the Statement leads to a better undrstanding and more tolerance. And I can look at myself about what angered me about the behavior of the other Person. Because in the majority of cases it has something to do with me. Jesus does not say for nothing that we should pull the beams out of our eyes before we take care of the splitters of others.
If we really want others to understand what we want to say, then it can only happen when it is done in a loving way. If one speaks angrily about things, how can this be Happening with love? When one tells others, without getting angry, what one things, then this is done with love. Then it is about the other, not about me, my Anger. A, „golden rule“ is: we should do onto others as we would like them to do to us. we would much rather have someone speak to us and not about us. If we feel that we are important to the other person, then we are also open to listen. We are willing to contemplate and willing to change our behavior. Like so many things, love is the key to a real encounter and also change.
What it is all about is in the last sentence in this section. Where two or three come together in my name, then I am among them. It is about being together, because everyone should accept Jesus‘ message.
It’s about a new relationship between people which happens when they are living their own relationship with God. Life in connection with God, in devotion to God, as John Welsely has always stressed, needs care and protection. And over and over again our will when we engage with others. In a spirit of love. Not a love that hovers overall and is vague. It is about a love, which comes from the heart and places the concerns about others in the foreground. A love that gives room not only for praise, encouragement but also for constructive criticism, not spoken out of selfishness but about the want for congregation. Also a communiyz for two man’s sake. If things bother us and we can not express this in the congregation because we are angry or inhabited and even if it is because of one person, then Jesus says we should clarify this. In love.
It is about loving oneself, the Chance for personal development, by boldly looking at oneself why this Person or this behavior bothers me.
We Need one another. To share peace, but also suffering, to assist in emergency and to participate in happiness. We Need other persons as role models, as companions, as Partners, friends, supportive, encouraging, assisting, correcting, motivating. With others we grow as individuals. we also grow with constructive criticism. Whether we give or take it. No one is perfect, everything does not always fit for everyone. it is normal that Problems and conflicts occur in a congregation. Jesus knew this and experienced it with his disciples and gives us instructions how we should deal with this. Paul says it as well, „Let no debt remain outstanding – you only owe each other love“.
John Wesley formulated retrospectively, „I have often regretted, to have judged to strictly and not often to have been merciful“. The scale is always how I want others to treat me. We should deal with one another through love. Especially when something bothers us.
The prayer at the end of this section has a reason. All of our efforts and work we should talk about with God in our prayers and allow room for God’s holy Spirit. Maybe we will then begin to see things through different eyes. Eyes of love and mercy. This enables a better discussion and afterwards we are happy about the new congregation that God has given us to share with others. And we feel the strong Connection of heaven and earth ever again. In God’s love we are all in good Hands and our empowered to deal with each other in love.
May God again give us the will and the experience that succeed in love.
Translation: Elisabeth Jansen