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Scripture tells us that love lies at the heart of conflict resolution in troubled times

by Debbie Bosak


       In his letter to the Romans in this week’s second reading (Rom 13:8-10), St. Paul tells us we don’t owe anything to anyone. Wow! That lets us off the hook, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s a catch and we need to pay attention.

       “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

       Later in the reading, Paul reminds us that love is, indeed, the fulfillment of the law.

        There’s a lot to chew on there, as there is in all the readings this weekend. Today’s culture of anger and violence immediately came to mind as I was reflecting.

       There was a time when, if we needed to let off steam, we could hem and haw, mutter bad words, perhaps even think evil thoughts about someone who we perceive has given offence. That’s not enough anymore. We have let things escalate to a point where anger is put into action and violence has become the norm.

       Think about it. We can be both on the giving and receiving ends of road rage. How dare that guy cut me off! We’ve seen devastation in the work place when someone takes offense to how they believe they’ve been treated. Children are being bullied – and at times physically harmed - at an alarming rate. There was a time when what the greater community thought of us mattered. In the “me and only me” culture of today, we find we’ve become indifferent to what our community might think.

       We have lost the art of defusing conflict.

       In my view, both the second reading from Romans, and the Gospel (Mt 18:15-20) seem to be speaking to us in the here and now. We could choose to “turn the other cheek” in such situations, but we seem to prefer the eye-for-an-eye philosophy. In the Gospel, Jesus explains how we should act when a brother or sister sins against us.

       Our first step is to go directly to the person and try to resolve the conflict. We generally are uncomfortable doing that, aren’t we? Heck, it’s much easier to say bad and hateful things behind that person’s back. We stew and let things fester until there come an outpouring of ugliness.

       But, if one-on-one doesn’t work, Jesus suggests that we bring along a couple of others to aid with resolution, voices of reason – those with no dog in the fight. If that should fail, “tell the church.”

       Wait, does that mean I should drag my neighbor to Father’s office because he refuses to pick up the apples from his tree that have fallen into my yard? No, of course not. Rather, we’re called to consider a greater understanding of what “church” means – what it meant in the Mediterranean culture of the time.

       Church was the heart of community; it was the driving force. The church – the community – dictated what should be valued and what would bring shame. The church was the last word in what was deemed acceptable and people listened. If they didn’t, they were shunned, forced out of their community.

       Now we simply don’t care what the community – our Church – thinks, as long as it personally feels good. What results is chaos, dysfunctional relationships and violence in our homes and in our streets.

       So, what’s a person to do? I think St. Paul sums it up well.

       Our greatest obligation is to “love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” And later in the reading, “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

       Conflict resolution – the end to violence – starts in the heart at the level of loving one another. If we purport to love God, loving our neighbor is part of the package; the two can’t be separated. We might not kill; we might not be liars or adulterers; we might not steal or lie, but if we don’t cultivate a true and abiding love and respect for our “neighbors,” we failed to grasp the meaning of that greatest commandment and it must be important because John repeated it.

       “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34)


Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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