Monday, September 1, 2008

Treat your enemy... to a meal?

Matthew 18:15-20

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

Progressive Christians that I speak to often talk about their disdain for this text. Perhaps its because it seems like the only people who are following through with their Christian obligation to hold our kin accountable for our actions are the ones who are believe that God(dess) has a more restrictive plan for the world.

I certainly have had my own share of individuals who, out of their Christian love for me, have sought to let
me know the numerous reasons they feel I've diverted from the path the folk at A Blaze for Christ and Shellfish have been the most vehement.

I can tell you that it is not fun to have these admonitions, but it is helpful. It gives me a forum to share with others the study, discernment and prayer I have put into the choices I have made in my life. It also guides my words and deeds as a pastor seeking to walk with others as we seek to take each step, as one moving us closer to God(dess).

I love the end of the text, stating that if aperson doesn't listen to you, you should treat them as a Gentile or a tax collector. In Jesus' case that meant that you ate with them, you listened to them, you healed them and you were ministered to by them.

It does not say that you try to exercise their demons, legislate prohibitions, shame them in public or cause scandal for them (all things people have tried to do to me). I purposefully use the word scandal here, because in the Greek the word scandelizomai means "cause to sin."

One way this text has been useful to me in my work has been with some of our homeless guests who are Schizophrenic. When I am speaking with guests who are declared mentally ill or "disabled" solely because they hear the voice of God(dess), I often remind them of this text.

While I could never know if the voices they hear or visions they see are coming from God(dess) and can share with them the ways that their visions/voices match or differ from the ways God(dess) speaks to me, this text can be comforting for someone who has been told their whole life that the voice of God(dess) they hear is a delusion. And, it can also be gentle reminder that just as G0d(dess) speaks to them, so to God(dess) speaks to others and the church is the community of faith that holds us to a higher level of accountability.

I hope that all people will seek to discover how God(dess) is calling them to live and interact in the world. So to, I hope that all people will share God(dess)'s calling with others and seek the council of their kin. And in the times when we disagree, I hope we will choose to eat with each other, to heal each other and to be ministered to by the "other."


See my previous writings on the text:
"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

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