Loving confrontation, that almost sounds like an oxymoron. Is it possible to confront anyone lovingly? Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, says it all hinges on love. The whole Law revolves around love.
It begins with loving our neighbors like we love ourselves. The real problem we might have with that is sometimes we don't love ourselves very much.
If people don't even like themselves it's no wonder they don't treat their neighbors with love, is it? Therein lies one of humanity's problems. People don't think they're worthy of love, theirs or anyone's. Maybe they haven't learned how to love or maybe they've been hurt so deeply that it's impossible for them to even consider loving anyone. How to solve that is a whole other can of worms. That's not to say it's not important but today Jesus is talking about how to lovingly confront a brother or sister who has hurt us. Please note that he is talking about someone who is a member of our community of faith.
Jesus says, if someone hurts us we are to go to them and try to work it out. The first problem is, what if they refuse to even listen to one word? Or, what if they listen but don't believe they're in the wrong? Either way Jesus tells us to go get 2 or 3 friends who know about the issue or wrong or hurt and all together go and lovingly bring it to their attention again. But they still won't listen.
Now this is where it gets really difficult. In Jesus' words he says to get the whole church involved and all together, you and the church, lovingly confront them, again. If they still won't listen we aren't allowed to give up and drop it but we're to start the process all over and lovingly confront our neighbor.
Peter heard this and wondered, out loud, how many times he should start all over, seven times? You know Jesus' answer. It was seventy times seven. In other words as long as it takes or forever. We aren't supposed to ever give up trying to heal the hurts. The other thing is we are, the whole time, to lovingly address our neighbor. Why?
Friends, look at it this way. What if a member of our family was doing something we knew was harmful to them? We may not like what they're doing but our love for them wouldn't changed. We'd go to them and ,in love, confront them, wouldn't we? Wouldn't we go to them over and over, maybe with other family members, until we knew they understood and changed their behavior? We wouldn't ever give up, would we. That's because we love them.
So, this family we're part of is no different. We are, each of us, part of this Body of Christ. If one part is doing something that is hurting them, or one of the other members, then it affects all the other parts of the Body and it has to be taken care of, otherwise the entire Body will be hurt. That might be why Jesus said that we shouldn't stop until the hurt is healed and the issue resolved.
The one thing we all struggle with and many times forget is that the whole process is be to done lovingly. Sometimes the hurt is such that we don't feel the love. That's when we must turn to God first, maybe with friends supporting us, in prayer and ask him to fill us with his love.
Why should we care? Why should we try to love ourselves and care what our brothers and sisters are doing? Well friends, it like Paul said today, “ Do this because we live in an important time. It is now time for you to wake up from your sleep, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
Jesus said that all of God's children were important to him and he didn't desire for any of them to be lost. That's why we should never give up.
Friends, we need to remind ourselves daily that God loves and he would like us to share that love with our brothers and sister in Christ. Everything we do we are to do in love and that's is a very difficult thing to do, alone. But with God all things are possible.
Thanks be to God for his loving grace. Amen.