In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew Jesus instructs his disciples how to behave if “your brother sins against you.” First, says, Jesus, go and speak to him yourself. If that doesn’t work, go with one or two others and speak to him. If that still has not effect, then tell the church. And if even that doesn’t work, then treat him as one would treat an outsider.
Jesus sets out a procedure for brotherly/sisterly correction that has as its aim conversion of the offending party. The aim is not to embarrass, or isolate, or humiliate the sinner, but to attempt to help him or her see the error of their ways so that they can be restored to community.
Far too often, this is not remotely close to how we approach those we believe have sinned. We are often far too quick to heap condemnation on those who offend, often loudly so – distancing ourselves from them and their sin. We skip the first step or two of Jesus’ process and go right to publicly declaring others to be sinners – declarations that can be very public very quickly given our ability to communicate over large distances via internet.
Our loud declarations of the sins of others so may make us feel righteous. They are not, however, consistent with how Jesus dealt with sinners.
If we aspire to the kind of love that Jesus showed to all, we need to think about how we approach, not only those who are easy to love, but those who have sinned against us and others. To find a way to invite those who have been isolated by sin back into communion.