Saturday, May 02, 2015

How to Deal with Offenses: Part 1

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Let’s face it. People are difficult. Personalities clash, cultures battle, and ideals often oppose each other. Dealing with other people, especially within the Church, can be complicated.

Because of this, one of the most difficult – yet common – troubles we have as Christians is resolving offenses. It’s so easy for us to feel as if we’ve been wronged, and so we often look to the person with whom we have an issue, hoping that they will somehow change. We try to avoid conflict, so we do nothing.

But what should we really do?

Scripture doesn’t usually give step-by-step, “if this happens, then do this” answers. But in this case, it does! In fact, the Son of Man Himself gave us a step-by-step approach for dealing with offenses in Matthew 18:15-20.

Now, before we delve into the actual instructions Christ gives in this passage, it’s imperative that we understand when it applies. And in order to understand this, we need only look at the very first phrase: “If your brother sins against you.”

This gives a prerequisite for everything else He is going to say in the passage. Essentially, the requirement is that, when we have an issue with someone, we need to decide whether it is even worth confronting.

Consequently, this brings up a crucial point: We have to do something about it.

When we have an issue with a brother or sister in Christ, even if it is something that merely bothers us about them, we really only have two options: 

We can either take it to the person directly, or we can choose to let it go.  Any other option is sin.

Why do I say that? If we don’t do either of those two things, we are either going to (1) talk to other people about this person with whom we have an issue or (2) keep it to ourselves, allowing it to fester in our heart and mind. The former is gossip, and the latter is bitterness. Both are wrong.

Thus, we have to determine whether the issue is really worthwhile at all. If it is not worthwhile, it is our responsibility to let it go. There is no point in allowing it to remain in us; in fact, it will only yield destruction. If it is worthwhile (which depends largely on whether it is a “sin against you”), then it is our responsibility to take it to the person directly.

Notice that, in either case, it is our responsibility. This is an important point, because we so commonly think that the issues we have with people are their fault, when they are, well, “issues that we have.”

There have been many points to Part 1 of this post, yet we haven’t even begun to look at Christ’s instructions! Nevertheless, we cannot move on without having a proper understanding of the prerequisites. On Wednesday, we will explore Jesus’s instructions in detail.

There are many more aspects of this topic than I can touch in even a two-part post, so I welcome your discussion in the comment section!