It is impossible to avoid differentiations in a community because we are all different. We are called to share our gifts and talents for the better common good. In order to achieve that purpose, members of a community need to embrace different opinions. They are not supposed to be obstacles, but if we know how to embrace them, will enrich the life of the community.
Disputes happen when both parties involved believe they are in the right. They can't both be equally right. There must be one who is more reasonable than other and it is hard to make the other party to accept that fact. Problems of individuals in a society are social problems of that society. It is the same for the faith community. The Gospel proposes three stages of solving community problems.
First, the best way to solve the problem is a process of private communication amongst the persons involved. It highlights the importance of the listening skills and the good relationships that each member of a faith community needs to maintain. When the relationships are healthy we listen well and live in harmony and peace and that is the best thing we can hope for. Good communication happens when we are a good listener and a good listener actively listens with an open heart. This is the meaning of the phrase,
'If he listens to you, you have won back your brother'
Good communicators do not make judgement or criticism but reason with a sympathetic mind that helps the listeners to listen better. We do not listen well when we are not happy. We only listen to what we want to and leave out most of the conversation. Selective listening means we don't listen to a whole sentence, but pay attention to a particularly word or phrase and try to make sense of those. When this happens the dispute can be taken out of the context and become very hard to reconcile. That reason alone makes the problem grow bigger and deeper.
If a solution can't be reached the first time, then the next step is employing a small group of people. The problem becomes more complicated because it uses community regulations, rules, customs and norms to solve the problem. Evidence and witnesses are required in order to lay a just and fair charge against that person. The charge doesn't aim to punish the person but gives him time to calm down and hopefully he will repent and reconcile. If the second attempt failed the final stage is very serious because it involves the whole community. The person will choose for himself the state of life. He will either obey the voice of the community and remains a member of that community or he will refuse to be a member of that community.
The former is the best solution for every one while the latter is the worst scenario, because from that point onward he chooses to live as a pagan. When a member of a faith community is living as a pagan, he is a member of the community no more because he refused to listen to the voice of the community. It is not the faith community that charges him as a pagan but rather he himself chose that state of life.
A three step of reconciliation is a process to give a person several opportunities to come back to the community. It gives him plenty of time to look deep into his heart and hopefully that he will come to his senses and returns to the sheepfold.
Happy Father's day and God's blessings!