Recently our readings for Morning Meeting came from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapters four and five. This selection of Scripture is so rich that we might never mine all the goodness from it in a lifetime of rereading. We certainly couldn’t exhaust all the lessons it has to offer during Morning Meeting, which is why I want to take this opportunity to consider one more point the passage teaches.
In Eph 4:3, Paul says the Ephesians ought to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” While we know Paul wrote this letter specifically to the church at Ephesus, and with a specific context in mind, we also know that if Paul’s exhortation was true for Christians at Ephesus, it is true for us at Trinitas. Maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is no easy task, though, no matter where it is being attempted because we’re all sinners, especially talented at offending each other, hurting each other’s feelings, and generally getting in each other’s way. But when the place you’re attempting to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is a school where 200 people are living in community each day, it is a difficult task to say the least.
One way we try to maintain unity at Trinitas is by keeping short accounts with each other. If one student offends another, simply saying, “I’m sorry,” will not repair the damage. It is the job of the teacher to help the offending party understand what he did wrong in biblical terms. If the teacher can help the student rightly see his error, the Holy Spirit most often brings conviction, producing sorrowful repentance. A student who understands he has wronged his neighbor and who wants to make it right will seek the forgiveness of the offended party. The offended party must be quick to forgive, which, believe it or not, is sometimes the harder part.
The whole process is often messy because we are all sinners who tend to bungle things even when our intentions are pure, but the whole process is nonetheless necessary. To forego addressing sin between members in a small community like Trinitas is to begin the undoing of the community. To confess sin and forgive is to start over with a clean slate or a clean account; it is acting out the Gospel. To ignore or cover sin between members of a small community makes for a long account sheet as sin continues to pile up, paving the way for bitterness. It also sends the message that the Gospel is not true, that the Holy Spirit cannot bring conviction and repentance, or that forgiveness is not possible. A community that follows that course of action will never thrive under the full blessing of God (remember Achan’s covered and unconfessed sin at Ai—Joshua 7).
If there is any way possible, we address offenses between members of the Trinitas community quickly so that sin does not linger, giving root to bitterness. We keep short accounts with each other. In Eph 4:26 Paul tells us not to even let the sun go down on our wrath. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that we are to reconcile quickly with any who accuse us (Matthew 5:25). In Matthew 18, Jesus exhorts us to go to those who have offended us if they don’t come to us first. In all three of these passages reconciliation between community members is a matter of urgency. It is clear we are not to ignore or let offenses linger between us. We are to keep short accounts.
So that your child(ren) does not find this practice unusual at school, try it at home as well. The Bible is clear that sin between believers is to be addressed quickly. If following this practice makes the school community better, it will certainly make your home a sweeter place as it thrives in the will of God. We need to be in the habit at all times and in all places of confessing our faults to one another and forgiving one another. As Paul says at the end of Ephesians 4, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” That’s how we maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Note: One of the greatest obstacles in helping children keep short accounts with each other is helping them understand their own actions rightly when they are the offending party. A great tool for equipping parents and teachers to do this is Lou Priolo’s book Teach Them Diligently. The Bible, of course, is the greatest tool, but Teach Them Diligently is a great resource to get you started and it always points parents back to Scripture. This book is required (and repeated) reading for Trinitas teachers. We also ask all parents to read it in their first year at Trinitas. You can purchase the book in the school office.)