So how are we to hold together? What binding should happen for a loving community to grow? Jesus tells that if someone sins against us we are to go privately to that person and address the issue. We are not to sulk, nurse grudges or grumble. We are not to undermine each other or set up disgruntled factions or power bases. Private reconciliation is the key. If that fails we are to take others with us to try and achieve it. In this Gospel passage, Jesus says ‘listen’’ four times in quick succession. Binding is about holding things together and finding ways to make that happen. Listening is an important skill we all need to develop.
Books are bound to hold all the pages in the right order. Binding for Christians is not about handcuffing the enemy. We are to bind ourselves and one another to Jesus, being in loving covenant with God who has bound himself to us as our Creator, through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ and through the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Loosing is about liberation. It is about letting things go and setting people free. Tackling disputes in a mature Christian way, we dare to do things differently from our natural inclinations. By doing so, we can break circles of violence, revenge and stored up animosity. We set people free to start again just as God has set us free. The crucified Christ takes the sins of the world to liberate creation into a full and loving relationship with God. When we loosen someone we give them space to be themselves. We remove shackles of fear, anger, grief, envy, poverty, ignorance, discrimination, oppression - any number of forces that besiege people both within and without. Liberating people means they are truly free to walk away if they choose. The good news of the Christian faith is that God loves everybody and wants us all to be free to live life in all its fullness. God desires a loving, flourishing, faithful humanity and the Church is called to model this to the world.
Jesus took as his manifesto Isaiah’s words about binding up the broken hearted and setting the captives free - ‘binding and loosing’. In Greek, Matthew 18.18 reads: ‘whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven’.
So, we are called to mirror on earth the wholeness and healing of heaven. As a Christian community we are called to ask ourselves difficult, but essential questions:
How can we bind ourselves closer to each other, to the world, to God?
What bridges can we build?
What reconciliation do we need to initiate?
What can we hold together that is falling apart?
What might we each do to liberate one another?
What do we need to let go for flourishing to happen?
The Eucharist binds us to Christ. Our prayers and care of others bind us to one another.
This week, as you go in the power of the Holy Spirit to bind and to loosen, do remember that all you do on earth is already done in heaven. Mirror the love, relationships, community and freedom of heaven in your daily lives and bring the kingdom closer.
Every blessing, Christian