If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained a brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them. Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:15-22
Most of us fail to understand peacemaking because we fail to understand sin.
Most of us envision peacemaking as a boring process and cannot stand the idea of peace even though we work for it, because peace seems to us to be boring. It seems to be the way most of us think about heaven, no conflict, all is quiet and tranquil, all in all a very boring picture indeed. But the gospel paints a very different picture of what it means to make peace, and what heaven’s peace looks like. But that’s for another blog post. How is it that Christians, a people of peace can be asked to confront one another? It seems out of character for Jesus to urge us to do so, but I think that’s because we’ve lost sight of what this confrontation might mean for Jesus’ vision of what peace making means.
Sin, like conflict darkens things, corrupts them, and distorts what once have been a blank canvas between ourselves and another. Between our community and the world that looks to us as an example. Sin gets in the way and when we don’t face the sins another has committed against us it is not because we are strong but because we are weak. We are prideful and do not wish to acknowledge that another has wounded us. We do not want to face the sins of another, in case they repent and are reconciled to us.
Peacemaking is the virtue of a community of forgiven people who cannot bear the possibility of sins and grievances in their midst because this might disrupt what it means to be a community of peace. Even the smallest disruption in the general peace could be the undoing of the entire community. That’s why Jesus emphasizes to us not to go one about our merry little lives without resolving the tensions and sin between ourselves and another. It’s not that He won’t accept our sacrifices wthout this, it’s that any sacrifice we offer up isn’t a sacrifice at all if we have not worked to be making peace.
This type of confrontation is what Jesus is talking about when he says blessed are the peace makers, it is the forgiven ones the ones who forgive that are to be known as the sons of God. As freely as we give out forgiveness, so too will it be given to us.
We cannot be a forgiving people without the type of confrontation that makes forgiveness possible. Peacemaking is ultimately this forgiveness, the type that bears with another and agrees to ask for the brother, that it might be done by our Father who is in heaven. What we are asking for when we gather to ask in Jesus name, is the forgiveness of the brother who has sinned against us, and we can only do that when we acknowledge that we feel we have been wronged.
Peacemaking means facing conflict with honesty and openness, it means forcing ourselves to offer up the objects of our hatred and the secrets that fuel such hatred and living openly. Picture being wronged like sticking your hand into a jar, often we hold onto that object even if it means losing our lives or hands in the process. We have to learn to let go of things we hold onto like treasures in order to begin to learn the treasures that the gospel asks us to inherit. In the process of discussing our grievances we might discover we were wrong about being grieved and will have to change our minds, and sometimes we like Jonah are too caught up in our hatred to want reconciliation at all.
Peace is something that is worked for, not something that just happens to pour out of you because you can build a better mask.