In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives guidance to his disciples on dealing with a dispute within the ekklesia – the church community. If a member of the community has done something wrong, the duty of his or her fellow disciples is to challenge the offender – but always in love and mutual respect. The aim is to bring about reconciliation. Even if a Christian has to be “excommunicated” from the community, this should always be done in a way that offers them a road back. These rules, set out by Jesus, probably reflect what was happening in the community for which Matthew wrote his Gospel.
If we feel that we have a grievance against someone, it may not be easy to challenge them directly. It may be easier to grumble and gossip behind their back – but such gossip can be terribly destructive. Jesus’ teaching in this Gospel challenges us to address difficulties and conflicts in a responsible way. This is what it means to love our neighbour. Jesus adds, “Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.” If Christ is truly among us, then our Christian communities should be places of welcome and acceptance.