The whole office knew the story of what had happened between Sue and Nancy. Everyone was talking about it. Everyone, that is, except Sue and Nancy. Sue’s feelings had been hurt by something Nancy had said. Perhaps if Sue had said something right away the whole thing could have been resolved on the spot, but she didn’t. She figured that she shouldn’t have to tell Nancy how she felt because Nancy should know that she had hurt Sue’s feelings and she should apologize. The fact that Nancy had absolutely no idea what she had done to upset Sue had nothing to do with it.
Have you ever been in a situation like this? Knowing that someone is angry with you but not knowing why? It’s hard to apologize for something when you don’t know what it is. Maybe that’s why Jesus advised his disciples that, when someone does something to you, you are to go directly to them (and only to them) and discuss it. Assuming that the two of you can come to some amicable understanding, the issue can be resolved with a minimum of hurt feelings and no one else ever has to get involved.
Of course, Jesus understood that this might not always work. Other people do get involved. And, since details can change with each retelling of the story, he went on to suggest that the injured party might want to “take one or two others along … so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” This way there would be at least two uninvolved people who, no matter how often the story was retold, would know exactly what had happened and could help to settle the issue.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” It’s not easy to tell someone that they’ve hurt you, but it’s necessary if we truly value the relationship.
What do we do when a friend sins against us? Do we tell them what we’re feeling? Do we allow them to respond? Or do we prefer to retreat into hurt silence and wait for them to come to us?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.