Jesus lays out some hard and fast rules of the road for churches in this week’s lesson from the Gospel According to Matthew. Now there weren’t “churches” per se at this time, but replace the word “churches” with “assemblies” or “gatherings of people” and viola!
Jesus says that if someone crosses you within your community, be respectful and point out the fault directly to that person while no one else is around. If the person doesn’t hear or listen, go back again with some witnesses to ensure that you’ve done your due diligence.
Simple directions, right? Well they don’t cover all of our bases, so I thought I would direct our attention to Charles W. Christian’s “10 Rules for Respect,” a list that my sponsoring bishop, Greg Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia, uses as a guide for managing and transforming conflict within the church. It’s a fantastic list, and now that I’ve remembered its existence, you can bet it will be posted in my office!
10 Rules for Respect
1. If you have a problem with me, come to me (privately).
2. If I have a problem with you, I will come to you (privately).
3. If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. (I’ll do the same for you)
4. If someone consistently will not come to me, say, “Let’s go to Curtis together. I am sure he will see us about this.” (I will do the same for you.)
5. Be careful how you interpret me—I’d rather do that. On matters that are unclear, do not feel pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts. It is easy to misinterpret intentions. Assume the best of me and ask if you have questions about my intentions.
6. I will be careful how I interpret you. I will assume the best of you and ask if I have questions about your intentions.
7. If it’s confidential, don’t tell. If you or anyone comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell unless a) the person is going to harm himself/herself, b) the person is going to physically harm someone else, c) a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you.
8. I do not read unsigned letters or notes.
9. I do not manipulate; I will not be manipulated; do not let others manipulate you. Do not let others manipulate me through you. I will not preach “at you.” I will leave conviction to the Holy Spirit (she does it better anyway!)
10. When in doubt, just say it. The only dumb questions are those that don’t get asked. Our relationships with one another, at the end of the day, are the most important things so if you have a concern, pray, and then (if led) speak up. If I can answer it without misrepresenting something, someone, or breaking a confidence, I will.
…and a bonus rule!
11. Pray for one another. That’s not just a throwaway line. Lifting one another to God in prayer is how we learn, slowly and sometimes painfully, but ultimately joyfully, to see each other with God’s eyes, hear each other with God’s ears and love each other with God’s heart. My holding you in prayer will always include me asking God to love you through me. Pray that for me and for one another.
What item sticks out to you? How could this list be used beyond church situations?
The Rev’d Curtis Farr is the assistant rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. He offers reflections on the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. He keeps a blog at FatherFarr.com.