The Journey of Reconciliation
Using Matthew 18 as a Model
What does the journey of reconciliation look like? How do we practice this calling? In all of our readings on forgiveness, reconciliation, conflict transformation and restorative justice, we have found nothing more helpful than Matthew 18, a book of instruction to the early church. Here is where the scripture puts flesh and blood on the bones of the Great Commandment and on our Calling to be Ministers of Reconciliation.
Matthew Chapter 18
Matthew Chapter 18 begins and ends with two of the greatest sources of conflict and harm: power and money. The chapter begins with the question from the disciples of Jesus: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It ends with the issue of the forgiveness of debt. One whose debt is bigger than all of the debt of Mesopotamia is forgiven. This debtor then turns on his small debtor, throws him into jail and subsequently suffers the consequences of one who is forgiven but does not forgive. In between, we are given
- an analysis as to why we have destructive conflict and violence — the problems created by trying to be greater than another;
- an understanding that God is present with us in the midst of conflict;
- an understanding of why Jesus calls us to be “like a child,” or what it means to say peacemakers, reconcilers, are children of God;
- practical advice on how to deal with conflict and harm: the journey of reconciliation, the journey of restorative justice;
- the story of the lost sheep, with its vision of no one being lost and the celebration that occurs when restoration of relationship takes place;
- the radical breaking of cycles of woundedness, retribution and violence through the act of forgiveness; and
- an understanding of the deep reality of creation, seeing the consequence of not following the path of reconciliation and restorative justice, being told that if we do not forgive we will not be able to experience forgiveness and that if we do not follow the journey of responding to those we have harmed we will not be able to experience the Kingdom.
God is present with us in the midst of conflict.
In the middle of Matthew 18 is the verse “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (18:20). While we may often think of this as any church gathering, even a potluck, in this scripture we find ourselves in the midst of conflict and in the midst of the community confronting and healing offenses. The journey of reconciliation is a journey that no one takes alone. God heals, God restores and God saves.
The only question we have is whether we really believe this. The more we work with conflict, the more we are aware that this is where we find God most fully present.