In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 18, Jesus gives a “formula” for how to deal with someone who has wronged you, sinned against you.
Step 1: talk to them yourself, one to one. If that fails to remedy the situation, move to Step 2: bring one or two others along as witnesses. If they refuse to acknowledge their wrong and repent, then comes Step 3: tell the church (the community.) Make it public. If even that doesn’t work, it’s on to Step 4: treat them as you would a Gentile or tax collector. Walk away and be done with them.
All of this is assuming this correction will be done in love. It cannot be done for retribution or to demean the other person, to make them look bad in the eyes of others. Doing this from a pure heart may be the hardest thing of all. And if we are the ones who need correcting, seeing this as coming from a pure heart can be doubly difficult. Only a clean heart (see Psalm 51) can make this formula truly work.
Father, when a brother or sister needs correction or we do, give us a pure heart filled with love that we may act as Jesus acts – filled with love and mercy. Amen.