Overcoming conflict with God’s grace – MATTHEW 18:15-20
By Ottrisha Carter
In today’s gospel, Jesus provides us with a few ways in which we can tackle conflict resolution within our communities.
As humans, we encounter conflict in our daily lives. A conflict can be caused from something as small as misunderstanding a person’s comments to something as big as defaming someone’s character. Overcoming conflict among ourselves may seem difficult and impossible for us but with God’s grace, we can overcome these obstacles.
The first advice that Jesus gives to us when trying to deal with conflict is to approach the individual. Having alone time with the person can help us to better understand the reason why he or she acted in that particular manner, what factors contributed to the person’s behaviour and how we can help the person overcome the issues that he or she is grappling with internally. Imagine yourself saying something to someone that you didn’t realise would offend the person. Wouldn’t you feel better if the person told you about it privately than in front of a crowd? “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. …” (Matt 7:12).
Let’s try to remember this, the next time we feel the urge to get revenge or embarrass someone for their mistakes.
If we’re unable to resolve the conflict with the individual, Jesus advises that we reach out to one or two persons who can assist us. We’re all familiar with the proverb that two minds work better than one. Maybe there is something that we’re unable to understand or see clearly that someone else might be able to pick up on and draw our attention to, as we try to resolve the issue. Being able to get the opinion of another person can also help us to see things from another point of view. According to St Teresa of Calcutta, “What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God.”
Sometimes the effort of more individuals is required to resolve a conflict. Therefore, if our efforts fail and the combined efforts of the other two individuals prove to be futile, then we should seek the assistance and prayers of our church community. The more prayers that are offered up for us and the individual, the more open our hearts will be to experience conversion and reconciliation.
“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. …He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him … and the prayer of faith will save … If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas 5:13-15).
The final conflict resolution guideline that Jesus gives, raises questions because we see Jesus interacting with sinners throughout the Bible. However, God gives us chances upon chances to change our lives but sometimes we choose to remain in our sinfulness. We can only experience conversion when we open our hearts to God’s healing grace. If we cannot welcome God in our lives, there is little He can do for us.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).
In the first three conflict resolution guidelines, we see Jesus’ desire to seek out and save the lost. Jesus encourages us to resolve our conflicts and emphasises the need for reconciliation among us. He does not suggest that we live in bitterness because of our negative experiences but He desires that we learn to overcome our conflicts with others.
While the last conflict resolution highlights the point that we cannot overcome conflict if we choose to close ourselves off to God and others.
As we continue our individual journeys, let’s ask God to grant us wisdom and discernment so that we would be able to choose the most appropriate conflict resolution guideline when faced with obstacles and problems in our lives.
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your kind spirit guide me on ground that is level” (Ps 143:10). Lastly, Jesus reminds us, “For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them” (Mt 18:20).
The gospel reflections for September are by Ottrisha Carter, a writer and parishioner of St Martin de Porres parish, Coryal.