8 Minute Read

TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Exodus 4:1–5:21
Matthew 18:1-20
Psalm 22:19-31
Proverbs 5:15-21

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Matthew 18:15-17 (CSB) “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Forgiving someone who has hurt us is often incredibly difficult. Sometimes, it seems impossible!

The difficulty is often found in the depth of the pain – we simply don’t want to be hurt again. So, we either 1) avoid the one who injured us or 2) we attack the person with our words (and actions). For the Christian, both of these natural responses are wrong.

The problem is virtually always compounded by our own pride. Internally, we are yelling in the privacy of our brain: “How dare you treat me that way!”

So, we hold onto wrongs done to us. We justify maintaining a state of unforgiveness in our sinful heart. In doing so, we willfully refuse to comply with the command given to us by God in Romans 12:18 where it says: “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

The end result is impotent individuals and impotent churches. Nothing of eternal value will happen because God has withheld His hand of blessing. Further, the lost world is not drawn to Jesus because they see us at odds with each other and fail to see how He makes a difference in our lives.

So what is the remedy? How do we make things right?

In this morning’s reading, we came across Matthew 18:15-17. Jesus gives us the step-by-step process by which we seek to make things right. If someone has hurt us, then Jesus puts the ball in our court. If we are the offended party, we are the ones commanded to take action.

But before beginning this process, we must realize that the ultimate goal of Jesus’ instruction is restoration, not ‘in your face’ confrontation. This process (Matthew 18:15-17) immediately follows the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:10-14). In this previous parable, the goal was to find the wayward lost sheep and to bring it back – just as someone who has hurt us deeply should be found and brought back to a place where the relationship can be healed and restored.

So, while the process clearly pushes the person who hurt us into a decision by ever increasing pressure, the primary goal is not to harm them emotionally or in any other way. It is to bring them to a point of repentance so that restoration can take place. While restoration is not always the end result, it is always the primary goal.

So, what are the steps when someone hurts you? (And we’re talking about the big stuff, here – not the small things that we simply need to get over. We should never wear a chip on our shoulder daring others to knock it off.)

Step 1: Try to Work It Out Privately

Matthew 18:15 (CSB) “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother”

Go to the that person privately. Don’t bring anyone into the ordeal (certainly don’t gossip). Pray before you speak with them and go with an attitude of humility. Let them know of the wrong that was committed and give them an opportunity to repent (confess, apologize, and commit to never do it again).

Step 2: Take Two or Three Neutral Witnesses / Arbitrators

Matthew 18:16 (CSB) “But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established.”

If they don’t respond positively to a one-on-one meeting, we are to take it to the next step and bring 1 or 2 neutral witnesses who will essentially act as arbitrators.

The purpose of these witnesses is not to “gang up” on the one who refuses to make things right. Instead, the purpose of bringing in witnesses is to have someone who listens objectively to the accusations and listens to the accused. Since the witnesses are not emotionally involved, they are better equipped to point to steps toward reconciliation.

If the matter still cannot be resolved and it must go to the next step, then these witnesses can inform the church of what they saw and heard.

Step 3: Get the Church Involved

Matthew 18:17 (CSB) “If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church…”

If the accused doesn’t respond positively (and the issue is deemed serious enough by the witnesses), then the matter is to be taken to the next step. The church body is to be informed.

The purpose of this would be to get the church to pray for the wayward sinner – the one who has wronged us and refuses to make it right. Also, the church (now informed of the problem) would, through the pastor(s) or deacons, look for a way to resolve the issue. It would seem that this step would include yet more individuals sent to the accused with a desire to bring about repentance and reconciliation.

Step 4: If They Still Won’t Respond Positively, Treat them as Someone Who Desperately Needs to Trust in Jesus for Salvation

Matthew 18:17 (CSB) “… If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.”

If they don’t respond positively to the church, the church takes it to the next and final step: “let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.” Essentially, treat them like someone who is on their way to Hell and needs to be saved.

Why?

Because saved people don’t act like this.

But, even in this fourth and final step, reconciliation remains the desire. They are not simply “kicked to the curb.” They are seen to be someone with a bad heart condition that is in desperate need of prayer.

Conclusion

It is unfortunate that too many of us hold onto hurts. We not only refuse to work to make things right, we may also periodically bring others into it by way of gossip and only compound the problem. All the while, Satan laughs and lost people remain unconvinced that Jesus really does change lives.

So, commit to the pattern Jesus has given to us. If someone commits a major offence against you, work toward reconciliation. It will be tough. Sometimes it won’t end well. But, sometimes we will experience joy as relationships once characterized by hurt feelings can be replaced by friendships that bring us joy.

And God will be glorified! Why? Well, if for no other reason, we will have done what He’s really good at:

Ephesians 4:32 (CSB) “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”