At Morning Prayer one day last week I was struck by the significance of the words of Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew:
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
When we disagree with one another, especially about things that we care about very much, we often treat those with whom we disagree as the enemy. That may happen in the Church even more often than in other settings. We care about our faith and the communities that have nurtured that faith. Unless we are one of those who are content with "me and Jesus" and feel they have no need for a community's support in the journey, our churches mean a lot to us. And when members begin to disagree about important matters of congregational or denominational life, we can feel threatened. And when we feel threatened, we may forget Jesus' warning and call someone on the other side You fool!
Obedience to God requires listening. In the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion (and other churches), there has been a fair amount of listening about human sexuality. Anglicans have come to different conclusions about whether committed same-sex relationships can have the Church's blessing. Faithful people on all sides of the debate believe that they have heard God's voice on this, but some of us have not been as faithful in listening for God's voice about how we are to treat the sisters and brothers with whom we disagree. I have at times refused to hear these words of Jesus and needed to seek his forgiveness and the forgiveness of those whom I have treated badly and needed God's grace to amend my life. I give thanks that God is faithful even when I am not.