When you have been wronged by someone, really wronged? What can you do to correct it? If your idea of correction involves wanting the other person to suffer as much as you have, well, Christ Jesus’ teachings on conflict resolution won’t be much help. But if you desire to unwind the snarl, right the wrong, and bless all parties, Jesus offers some really good direction on healing rifts.
Matthew, chapter 18, deals with correcting sin. “If your brother and sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (18:15)
When wronged, it can take a lot of discipline to keep one’s mouth shut and avoid discussing the case with others, especially when self-justification and injustice prick one’s pride. A wounded or embarrassed ego seeks security in numbers, gathering opinions to justify one’s position. Here is where prayer can be helpful. In fact, I believe prayer is the key to resolving disputes quickly and efficiently. Prayer between one listening heart and God can replace anger, fear, reaction - and any other mortal influence that would interfere with healing - with humility, moral courage, wisdom and unselfed love. This opens the way to healing.
Early in chapter 18, Jesus teaches a lesson on the importance of prayer for humility and childlikeness. In fact, all the lessons and stories of chapter 18 contribute to understanding how to follow Jesus’ directions on correcting wrongs.
Matthew wrote, “At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” (18:1) I read that as Bible language for “Who will ultimately be seen as right?”
Jesus called a little child to him. And he said to the disciples: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:2-5)
To me, to take “the lowly position of this child” involves prayer to know oneself as God’s child, as strong and pure and innocent and good, the way God makes us. And to “welcome one such child” extends the prayer to include the person in our path, the one we may have a problem with. Until we see ourselves and others as God's children we will never be right. When prayer reveals both parties as the image and likeness of God, they are seen to be on the same team. This better perspective smooths the path for conversation and other human footsteps that lead to righting wrongs directly, privately, quickly, lovingly, with forgiveness and without a big fuss.
Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) Prayer that gathers “two or three together” in the correct spiritual view of man as God’s child, opens all parties to the healing Christ. And it only takes one person’s prayer to accomplish this. We don’t have to wait for someone else to get it. One individual prayer can gather together the healing perspective necessary to redress a wrong with love and without fear.
The Matthew 18 code offers two more possible steps if persistence and insistence are needed for correcting wrongs. In all, the steps are quite insightful and complete. They require prayer to follow. Often one need only properly apply the first step to the case, through prayer, to resolve the dispute. The trick is to not have one’s eye on step two and step three “in case” step one fails! Why would we want to sabotage our own progress by skipping the prayer essential in the first step, or by assuming that such prayer won’t accomplish the desired result?
The next post will address Jesus' instructions on what to do if the case seems entrenched and requires persistence in prayer. Stay tuned! And if you have had an experience of resolving a conflict through following step one of the Matthew code, would you share it with us in the comments below?
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I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no