Matthew 18:15 If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
How often is this practiced in modern day Christianity? How many of us (I include me as a chief perpetrator) hold inside us resentment and bitterness for someone in our faith who has wronged us? On top of burying or clinging to this bitterness, how often do we act as if nothing has happened; paint on the mask of the smiling face and ignore the elephant in the room? Taking this a step further, how often do we let our resentment build up to the point that it is not far from our thoughts and actually hinders our prayers? According to this verse, who does the solution reside with? I say, “Us.”
Why is it that I am afraid to approach a person and let them know that they have wronged me? I think that mostly for me…I don’t want to make waves. I am afraid that if I do make waves, I will not be liked or accepted. There are other reasons like: Misinterpreting the scripture of living at peace with one another. If I point out a sin against me, I may be violating the peace among brothers and sisters. Or, if I point out a sin against me, am I not judging another? Or, what if I am wrong or have misinterpreted how that person has treated me? Finally, is what I am offended by something that I do to others? If I point this out in another, would I not be considered a hypocrite?
All of these fears and considerations are not how Jesus asks us to approach the situation. By doing nothing the situation festers and gets worse or, a relationship just dies. Neither of these results fit within Jesus’ teachings and principles for fellowship. So, how do we live? How do we land this plane without crashing?
First, we must approach. I believe that this is the hardest and scariest step. We must approach gently. One of the best ways to broach the subject is to go back to the scene of the crime. A way to do this is by asking the question, “Remember that time…?” The quick follow up to that question would be an “I” statement. “I perceived/felt/wondered/thought…” This takes some pressure off when you own how you felt in that moment. Many times, approaching takes care of the whole situation. The person you approach may feel he/she was in the wrong but has been embarrassed by the situation and did not know how to approach you to apologize. Many times when I just breach the subject, the floodgates of remorse open up and the situation is resolved. We must approach. Remember, the other party cannot read your mind.
Second, we must walk through what I call a, “Where do we go from here…” time. In this part of the conversation, there needs to be some give and take around what has happened. Some questions need to be addressed (These are only thought provoking questions, follow your heart and the Holy Spirit as you work through this part): What caused this? Is this a pattern? What do we do next time this happens? Is this something we are willing to work on? At this point, we really need to have some solid conclusion.
A few things happen when we overcome our fears and approach those who have sinned against us. One, we become a blessing to them. The person you approach may not realize he is doing this sort of thing. This may actually be a pattern in his life and he does this to more than just you. By pointing it out, even if it is painful to him, you have helped him to be more self-aware and have re-directed him.
Two, it clears the air and allows you to release bitterness and resentment and allows you to open up to forgive. In some of my circles of fellowship this is a form of what we call, “Keeping it in front of you.” If you let this bitterness fester, it will drive you from behind. If you put it out there, it is in front of you. Another way of looking at it is that it is in the light.
Finally, you may be doing the same wrong to others. Approaching someone about the way she has sinned against you actually becomes a mirror for you. I recognize many wrongs against me because it is the same wrong I commit against others. This allows me to better myself as I look at the “log” in my eye.
As we start this New Year, I challenge all of us to approach those who we need to approach. I challenge us to improve our fellowship with one another. I challenge us to point out in a loving way the wrongs acted out against us. And, I challenge us to look inward and see if we wrong others in the same way. Next week, we will visit how we approach others that we have wronged.
1. What relationship situation are you holding bitterness and resentment toward, and what sin has been committed against you to get you to this place?
2. What has it done to your relationship?
3. How do you react inside and outside when you come into contact with this person?
4. Pay attention this week (or over the coming weeks) for the opportunity God affords you to approach an individual around a particular sin committed against you. Take action and “approach”.
Note: If you are in need of more guidance around a method to approach and walk through patching up a relationship with someone, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to walk you through the situation.
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