Today’s Bible Reading:
Today’s Bible Verse(s):
Matthew 18:15-17 (NLT): “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):
Forgiving someone who has hurt us is often challenging. 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 avoid the one who injured us. Yet, the problem is virtually always compounded by our own pride: “How dare you treat me that way! I’ll make you pay for what you did to me!”
So, we hold onto injustices and reconcile our unforgiveness in our sinful hearts. In doing so, we willfully refuse to comply with the command given to us by God in Romans 12:18, where it says: “Do all that you can to live in 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 toward reconciliation. 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 the previous parable, the goal was to find the wayward, lost sheep and bring it back. This is the same goal we must have when we speak with someone who has hurt us deeply. Our ultimate aim is a restored relationship.
So, what are the steps when someone hurts us? (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.)
Go to the person privately (Matthew 18:15). Don’t bring anyone into the ordeal (certainly don’t gossip). Pray before you speak with them and go with an attitude of humility. Highlight the wrong and allow them to repent (confess, apologize, commit to never do it again).
If they don’t respond positively, take it to the next step and bring 1-2 neutral witnesses/arbitrators (Matthew 18:16). The purpose of these witnesses is not to “gang up” on the one who refuses to make things right. Instead, their aim is to witness the interaction and to encourage reconciliation. If the matter isn’t resolved and goes to the next step, they can inform the church of what they saw and heard.
If the offender doesn’t respond positively, we should take it to the next level and tell the church (Matthew 18:17). The purpose of this step is to get the church to pray for the wayward sinner, the one who has wronged us and refuses to make it right. The church’s pastor and/or deacons would look for a way to resolve the issue.
If the offender still does not respond with repentance, the church takes it to the next and final step: “treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” Essentially, treat them like someone who is on their way to Hell and needs to be saved. Why? Because Jesus-followers don’t act like this.
Unfortunately, too many of us hold onto hurts. We not only refuse to work for reconciliation, but we may also compound the problem further by gossiping or slandering. All the while, Satan laughs and lost people remain unconvinced that Jesus-followers are any different than them.
So, commit to the pattern Jesus has given to us. If someone commits a major offense 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 happiness.
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 “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”