August 12, 2009
Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
"Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.
If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector."
Accountability is something we usually like to apply to others but rarely ourselves. It is one thing to demand accountability and something harder to accept our own accountability.
Jesus is speaking of division in this morning's Gospel reading. The Body of Christ on Earth is each and every believer. We are a family that is united in our love of Christ and that requires many things from each of us and one of those things is accountability.
Jesus lays out a very simple and dignified way of dealing with division and sin in the Church. First we are to go to the one who has wronged us and seek to reconcile. Now, I don't believe that Jesus meant every time we are unhappy with someone. It is easy to get worked up and feel wronged if someone breathes wrong! Jesus isn't talking about our oft time desire to make someone be and do what we want. Jesus is referring to that true rupture of relationship where there is damage not only to the two involved but the entire Body of Christ. In other words, sin.
So. Go one on one and seek to reconcile. If that doesn't work, take some folks from the Church with you and seek reconciliation. Now here comes the kicker. If that person still refuses, take it to the whole Church! Seriously, can you imagine how well that would go over! And if that individual, or group, still refuses, then that person or group would be an outsider. Pretty harsh but it addresses just how serious division in the Body of Christ is viewed by the Lord.
If we are the Body of Christ and we are called to be the messengers of the Good News then we are all called to be accountable to one another. Not in the sense that we demand people meet requirements or pass a test to be considered worthy. It is that we are willing to admit wrong and do what is necessary to repair the rupture of relationship with God and one another. Our sin not only damages our relationship with God but also with one another as the Body of Christ. We are accountable to God for our actions and also to the other members of the Body.
So what would the Body of Christ on Earth look like if we took accountability seriously? I imagine it would look more like the Early Church. I don't mean that in an idealistic or romanticized way. I mean in the sense that the Early Church was a much smaller body and as such, it wasn't possible to hide when one had done wrong. As a result, people were held accountable. I worry that we have lost that reality of accountability and can lob "spiritual hand grenades" and then duck and hide and feel that we can get away with that type of behavior.
The community that practices mutual accountability is the one that becomes stronger because much is expected of those who have been given much. We are a community that has been given much and God expects much. It is our responsibility and privilege to work together in the best way we can and do all for the glory of God.