don’t confront anyone except…

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Luke 17:3b-4

“Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.”

Luke 17:3-4; MSG

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Galatians 6:1

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out.

Galatians 6:1; MSG

I think what the Lord tells us along with the rest of Scripture is that we’re to never confront or try to correct anyone except out of and in love. We should do so with tears so to speak, never imagining the falsehood that we’re better than the other person, not for one moment. We ought to know better than that. We’re all in this together, and it may not be long before we need some loving correction ourselves.

First though we need to pray and pray some more. We don’t jump into confronting people over a sin. At the same time we want to take all sin seriously. Or if we see something that might possibly be sin, that doesn’t look right, we might do well to ask questions. But only after prayer. And to do all of this within a relationship of love.

We should never be looking for what is wrong or might be in others. Yes, we need to keep our eyes open, but first and foremost we should be concerned about what is wrong with ourselves. And in prayer for God to reveal that to us, that we might always be sensitive to whatever is not right inwardly and outwardly through the light of discernment God gives us. And we’ll know better when we’re wrong, but we need God’s help in this. But we don’t do well if we fail to help others from what could end up being a devastating fall for them, affecting many badly.

Any confrontation and correction must be done gently, out of love. Not an easy task. I guess that’s why it’s not done. And we rebel against such. But we need to be committed to this, not only to give, but to also receive it when need be. But it’s not in the cards in our church life, or so it seems to me. Or it’s done in something other than a loving way, maybe perfunctory as mere duty, or even worse, in anger and arrogance. I’m thankful to now be part of a tradition which is committed to this, though not at all in some legalistic, threatening way.

May God help us in this. In and through Jesus.

forgiving each other

In any relationship, likely sooner than later, forgiveness will need to be extended on both sides. Along the way we have to overlook some faults, maybe even many faults. Love indeed covers over a multitude of sins. But there are times when we need to lovingly confront. Hard. And difficult, because in the confrontation we ourselves are vulnerable. In any give and take there is often sin on both sides. There is no easy way to do this. Jesus tells us that if a brother or sister sins, presumably against us, but I think this would include any serious matter, we first go to them and show them their fault. And then hopefully they repent. If they don’t, then we take someone along and again lovingly confront them. But if that doesn’t work, we take it to the church. If the second step does not include an elder or the pastor, the last step most certainly will. If they still don’t repent when confronted by the church, then they are no longer considered a part of the fellowship, and are then treated as one who needs to start over, and respond in repentance and faith to the gospel.

If we would follow this process that Jesus taught us, I think much good could be done along the way. I’m sure churches are afraid of lawsuits, but surely there could be some way to legally protect a church with a rule a new member would have to agree to, which would subject them to such a procedure, when necessary.

We don’t take sin seriously enough* in our own lives, or in the life of the Body of Christ. That results in untold damage and indeed mars our witness to the world. The church is never perfect in this life, but is to be in the process of being perfected, or growing up into full maturity in Christ. This is a maturity in which truth and love are joined, permeated with grace in and through Jesus.

If we have a break of fellowship with another believer, we not only do well to seek to clear that up, but we are simply being obedient when we seek full reconciliation with them. Maybe at a certain point we don’t like them, but our unity is in Jesus, and as we seek to live and grow together in that unity, we will begin to find more and more common ground, as well as differences in each other that are good. More than that there is a communion in which we’re all to live in Jesus. That communion is not just an individual one between God and I. But it includes all who are in Jesus.

I struggle to take Holy Communion when I know that there is a break in my fellowship with another in Jesus which is not fully restored. Of course perfect fellowship is likely impossible in this life. I don’t mean we can’t experience snatches of it here and there. I mean that we carry all our weakness and sin into all of life. We just haven’t arrived. A big part of growing more and more into full maturity in Christ, is to realize more and more the unity that is ours in Christ by the Spirit. To live in that unity.

We do all of this not just for ourselves so that all is well with us. But for the world. The world will see Jesus in us only when we are living in communion together with him. When that is disrupted, our witness is at best, hurt.

Let’s take sin seriously first in our own lives, and then in the lives of those we know. Wanting to simply cover over faults along the way. But willing to prayerfully, lovingly and gently confront as a friend and brother or sister in Jesus, when need be. So hard, and yet if we’re to follow Jesus together, so necessary. As we seek together to live as those in Jesus for the world.

*Thanks to our Pastor Jack Brown who pointed that out, yesterday.