The official motto of the United States is the Latin phrase, “E Pluribus Unum” or “Out of many, one.” It’s fitting, as the US formed from 13 colonies and then became a conglomeration of 50 states working together as one country. But further, it fits because of the multitudinous peoples who filled the country- all immigrants coming to seek a future in a land beyond the sea- many of whom were greeted by the statue that stands for liberty and justice for all. It’s the idea of a melting pot- many influences creating something unique, different, yet harmonious. That is what the idea is, but it doesn’t necessarily take root when not encouraged to!
It’s also the idea at the root of the church- out of many, one. Diverse peoples with myriad giftings and abilities drawn into relationship because of the love of their Savior to do something no one else ever could. That is a miraculous vision- where people live, love, and work together with one purpose under one head. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the head of the church, the brain deciding where we should go, what we should do and proceeding to tell the other parts how to do it. But we often conflate our self with God and miss the point. My hand doesn’t tell my brain what to do- it tells it when it hurts- but otherwise, it is dependent on the signals from my brain. If my hand is disconnected from my brain, it does nothing. I can no longer type, pick up my children, or drive. But for all intents and purposes we operate in the church as if we were in control of the body, much like the Corinthians did in the early days of the church. That meant Paul had to correct them via a care-frontational letter- writing a letter to address issues to them as a whole. Whenever we focus on “me” instead- instead of the “we” we’re meant to be. In the church it starts with people: “They said…” or “Did you hear what they did?” and escalates from there until there is a swirling vortex of pain caused by people talking about people and things but never talking to the people about the things.
That’s precisely why Jesus said what He did in Matthew 18. It’s a guideline to help us live in community that is abundantly simple. Jesus said,
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
So simple- just go talk to the person we have an issue with and work at restoring that relationship. The inverse is simple too: if we go talk to someone about someone else, we’re sinning. Period. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. Yet we throw those big but’s out there and justify and make excuses for our behavior. We find reasons why it’s okay for us, yet not for someone else. The harder part of the truth to swallow is that we bear responsibility for it too! The person we’re upset with needs to repent, yes, but most importantly WE need to repent too. If we go to someone high and mighty, better than them, we’ve missed a valuable portion of Jesus’ teaching from before about yanking the plank before we go on a sawdust extraction. If we have not repented of our part (and repent means to do a 180 degree turn from what was to where we need to go), we have no right to go to someone expecting them to change when we haven’t. It’s the tough part of community- self examination and some sanctifying surgery has to happen on us before we can help anyone else!
So here’s the simple question: is there anyone you’re holding something against today? Have you checked into your own life before going to them? Or worse yet- have you gone to someone else about them? If the answer to the 1st & 3rd questions were yes, you’ve got some repenting to do so you can answer the 2nd question honestly. But, it all starts and ends with you. You’ve got stuff you need to confess. You’ve got stuff you need to let go of. You’ve got people you need to forgive. You’ve got people you need to seek out rather than talk about. How do I know? Because I’m human too and bear fault just as much as anyone else! But I also know what Jesus said about worship and seeking His face- it’s all fake and worthless unless you’ve made it right with those people first… You cannot meet God unless you’ve made it right with people first. Doubt it? Take a gander at Matthew 5 and let the Lord of all creation convict you:
You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
In case you don’t understand- Jesus just said being reconciled to others outweighed our need to give God His worth as we sought forgiveness. Are you seeking reconciliation with others or only your own way? Are you avoiding the reconciliation because it might be painful for you? Are you talking to others instead of seeking out the person you need to? Don’t wait, go make it right and see what happens. It’s the only recipe for our country, our churches, our relationships, our families, and our souls.
Yank the plank and repent for your part. Seek people out instead of talking about them. Work for reconciliation because it’s your soul that you’re hurting. Go for God’s way and see what happens- it took Paul care-fronting the Corinthians to get there. I pray we learn from their debacle and hear the voice of Jesus instructing us in what is right, instead of continuing to repeat their mistakes. May we be the church that shows people Jesus instead of forcing them away…
*Originally posted on my personal blog, mattschaffner.blogspot.com