Some lessons are hard to learn at any age. I remember quite well a lesson I had to learn at the age of twelve. A friend and I had a “falling out.” Our friendship was suddenly on dangerous ground, and I was frightened. I don’t think I had ever faced a problem like this one. I was told that my friend had said some things about me that were not true. It was not hard for my Dad to see I was troubled, and he asked me about it. When I told him the problem he immediately told me that I needed to go talk to my friend and settle the issue.
I did not want to. I was afraid we would never be friends again, but Dad insisted, and he was right. I was able to clear the air about my own actions, and my friend explained his. Dad did not “quote scripture” to me, though he could have, but I will never forget that lesson he taught me at the age of twelve.
It is inevitable that people who live in this world will at some point get “crosswise” with each other. Christians can and do sin against other Christians, causing injury, sorrow, even a rupture in their close fellowship in the Lord. What should be done in such cases? Does the Bible tell us what to do and how to do it? Yes, the Bible deals with that subject specifically.
In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus said:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” NKJV
It is not unusual for big or little disagreements to take place, even sin, among the best of people, but Jesus gave us a way to solve those problems before they become more serious. The solution is so obvious that you would think all of us would see it and would immediately want to work toward solving that misunderstanding, removing the sin that comes between us.
There is one thing, however, that may make it harder to do. The brother or sister against whom sin has been committed must “go and tell him his sin between you and him alone.” No, that’s not an easy thing to do, but it must be done.
It’s possible the brother who sinned against you does not realize he has sinned if you don’t go to him and talk about it.
In another passage, Jesus again confronts the issue of a Christian who has sinned against his/her brother. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus addresses how we should handle such incidents:
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Obviously, if something comes between two Christians, both of them are obligated to find a solution. Both the one who has been sinned against and the one who has committed the sin must attempt to restore harmonious relationships as they were before the sin occurred. This is more than a common sense principle, but it is also fundamental to solving the problem. More to the point, it is an imperative, clearly demanded, supported, and stated in the Bible. Let’s do what it says!
Why then do we not do whatever it takes to assure that brethren can be in full harmony again? The main issue is that Jesus said we must “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Someone may not want to confront that person. Is there an alternate way to deal with this issue? Is there an easier way? Only if scripture provides an “easier” way – but it does not.
The way some choose is to tell it to someone else, then let them deal with it. This way would allow me to give someone else the task of solving my problem. The obvious reason some prefer this way “out of a problem” is that it takes me “off the hook.” The pressure is now on someone else. However, this way is not only lazy and cowardly, it violates Jesus’ clear instructions.
That friendship I mentioned at the beginning is still strong after many years, and partly because my father told me the truth, made me do what was best, even though it was not easy.
Christians still “get crosswise” occasionally, but the Bible gives us the way to deal with it.
Carl B Garner
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