The guest blogger series on The Peace of Christ continues with a post from Adam Copleand:
Today’s gospel lectionary passage illustrates the peace of Christ just beautifully – no really, stay with me. It’s a tricky text, Matthew 18:15-20 in which Jesus explains, to the disciples, how to deal with the age-old problem of church members sinning against one another. Yeah, sad but true: even back in Jesus’ day, the church wasn’t exactly the model of perfection.
So Jesus, being a fancy teacher and such, offers a three step plan. First, speak to the person who has sinned against you by yourself. Second, if that doesn’t work out so hot, bring along some witnesses and try again. Third, if the member still refuses to listen, tell it to the church. And if that last step doesn’t solve things, well, shucks. That sinner, Jesus says, should be understood as nothing more than a Gentile or a tax collector.
On first reading, Jesus seems to be a bit prickly. Maybe he had had too much people time or something, but doesn’t casting off a church member seem a bit harsh to you? Ouch, Jesus, that hurts.
And then the writer of Matthew smiles. And the reader begins to chuckle. And Jesus let’s out a big belly laugh himself.
Treat them as nothing more than a Gentile or tax collector, Jesus says. And we meanies are more than happy to cast them away. And then, smiling at Jesus’ trickery, we remember how Jesus himself treats Gentiles and tax collector. He welcomes them. He includes them. He loves them. He shrugs off society’s judgmental mentality and embraces the other as only God can.
Matthew 18 reminds of the peace of Christ because it’s surprising, it’s difficult, and it’s a call challenging us to move beyond our first impressions. Christ’s peace just laughs at our pettiness, smiles at our snarkiness, and grins at our misconceptions. Christ’s peace is fuller, deeper, stronger, and vaster than anything we can imagine.
We, too, can witness this peace when we move beyond our first impression to where Christ truly calls us. Seeing that immigrant not as “illegal” but as a child of God -Christ’s peace. Seeing that rich man as more than a wallet and an ego – Christ’s peace. Seeing our call not as one to please society but one to follow Christ – Christ’s peace.
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Adam Copeland is in his fourth of three years at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. A cradle Presbyterian flirtatious with Lutherans, he’s just back from a yearlong internship in the Church of Scotland. Adam is particularly curious about issues facing younger pastors, worship, justice issues, and emergent church. He likes cheese. Learn about this and other things at Adam’s blog, “A Wee Blether” http://adamjcopeland.com/