FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
A BROTHER WHO SINS
August 12, 2015
Today’s gospel: Matthew 18:15-20
We are called to the New Evangelization. Individuals as well as communities are called. For a community to respond effectively, it needs to be united in mind and heart. This means there is no serious conflict or disunity within the body. Now there will always be disagreements and hurts inflicted on one another, but for conflict or disunity to be avoided, brethren need to avoid gossip and be able to handle difficult inter-personal situations in the right way. Today’s reading gives us Jesus’ instruction on how to proceed.
First, “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” (v.15a). That means take up the matter with him directly, person-to-person. Do not gossip (telling others what he did wrong to you), and do not speak against him especially behind his back.
Second, “if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” (v.16). If he did not listen the first time, you are not now free to speak about him with others. That would again be gossip and possibly slander. Rather, take those others with you and speak to him directly again. Hopefully he will see that these others, not being the person he is in conflict with, provide objective input.
Third, “if he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.” (v.17a). If he still refuses to listen, you are not now free to speak about him to anyone or everyone in the community. That would still be gossip and slander. Rather, speak about him to those in the community who have authority over him, so that they might take appropriate action.
Fourth, “if he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (v.17b). If he still refuses to listen to those in authority, then you can choose to have nothing more to do with him, as you have already tried every community procedure. Still, you must be careful not to gossip about him or to unduly malign him. There are certain situations where the wrong that he did might have to be made known to certain people, to protect others in the community. But otherwise, you are not to even speak about his wrong to other people who have no business needing to know. This protects the reputation of the brother as we look to that time when he will be reconciled to you and to the community.
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