“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” (Mt 18:15)
Understanding Jesus’ teaching this week begins with acknowledging who our brother is; a beloved child of God. We maintain our gaze on the immortal soul, as God does.
Addressing a sin is to love. I have hurt a relationship by avoiding bringing up wrongs, thinking it’s better to be nice and excuse the behavior silently. However, in never addressing the sin, my ability to see the individual as God does slowly erodes. I began defining them by their failures, no longer seeing in humility their true identity. Choosing avoidance, I forget we are in each other's lives so that together we may learn to speak truth and learn charity with one another. Speaking the truth in love at the appropriate time offers opportunities for growing in virtue and reconciliation. If this is what we seek from God in the sacrament of reconciliation, we must extend this practice in reconciling with one another. Slowly, through each encounter, we learn to love others as God loves us. And we are creating a chance for others to learn this same
grace as well.
Addressing a sin does not mean withholding forgiveness and making someone an enemy. Choosing to love as Jesus did does include acknowledging when the individual is no longer in right relationship due to sin. Yet Jesus welcomed, befriended, and always extended reconciliation in response to sincere faith. We must be ready to reach out and welcome when another seeks mercy. Like Christ, we persist in hope for reconciliation. We humbly recognize each of us will always be in need of this same love. When this seems impossible, remember God is the one who provides this strength. He sees how we have had our identity sinned against. He will always invite us to cast ourselves and our hurts completely into the wounds of Christ, uniting our suffering to His, so He can heal and remind us of how He sees us and every person He has created. All of this because of our awareness of the dignity we all have, created in the image and likeness of God.
By Sarah Myers