7 Sept. 2014 Matthew 18:15-20 - Dealing with Difficult People
Difficult people have been a fact of life ever since human life began. As human beings we know we are sometimes difficult ourselves. As Christians, we believe that Christ is reconciling the creation and each of us in it to God and to one another. Dealing with difficult people in the church is about getting all parties directly involved around a table that focuses on the unconditional love of God for every human being and on the reality that we were created for relationship both with God and each other. It is in that context that real conversation and real reconciliation can take place. Paul calls this process “speaking the truth to one another in love.” As members of the Anglican Communion, the Elizabethan Compromise reminded us to stay focused on God’s love in order to stay present even with the people we find difficult, speak the truth to each other in love, and learn how to agree to disagree. In the past few years, the word “indaba” was borrowed from Africa to remind us once again that dealing with difficult people (and ideas) is about gathering together to sort out mutual problems in a context where everyone has a voice and where there is an attempt to find a common mind or common story that everyone is able to tell – to remember that reconciliation is the common story we all share.
We are all called to the ministry of reconciliation. We are all called to assume responsibility for speaking truth to one another in love. That ministry can be specific – that difficult person who pushes our ability to stay present with them, to stay in relationship, to stay focused on God’s love of them (and us). Reconciliation can be more general – those difficult systems and structures that establish criteria for who gets to be included, how resources should be allocated and whose lives count more than others. Justice can emerge when we can begin to see difficult people, difficult systems and difficult structures as an opportunity for doing the work of reconciling creation and each of us in it to God and each other.