Posts Tagged ‘how to respond to wrongs’

In my title today I am echoing the form of some of the Proverbs, especially in chapter 30. And I do want to share some Scriptural wisdom with you today. I want to give us all some encouragement this morning to work at any relational tensions and conflicts we might have in our lives and in our congregation. And I am sharing this precisely at a time when I am not aware of any such concerns among us, so you can be sure that I have no particular situation in mind.

Working at good relationships is really important for any congregation, because when we don’t attend to our relationships it makes it quite difficult to be focused on doing the work of the Lord together. But when we do attend to these things and live in loving and healthy relationships with each other we can focus on doing the Lord’s work, and we will be the kind of people that God can use to do his work.

So here are 5 things in the area of conflict and broken relationships that amaze and bring joy, certainly to God and also to me as your pastor.

The first is –

Someone who truly confesses their wrong to another

If you have done wrong to someone, it is very tempting to be defensive. Maybe you think they have done worse to you before, or they deserved it – or whatever. And our culture would encourage you to make excuses and to evade responsibility. There is an epidemic of this. No one wants to admit their wrongs or take responsibility for them.

Instead of this, when you wrong someone, the Christian way is to freely and fully confess your wrong to the other person. Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you (that is, you have wronged her or him), leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24

Jesus teaches us to go to the one we have wronged. Don’t wait for them to come to you, or for the situation to blow up. Go to the one you have wronged. And go with the goal of being reconciled; of making things right, as Jesus said in v 24.

And this can’t happen if you don’t confess your wrong. You have to take responsibility for your words and actions.

The example of the prodigal son is instructive. He had wronged his father terribly. And so he came and said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” – Luke 15:21. He took full responsibility for his actions. He humbled himself. And he was willing to accept the consequences of his behavior.

And as we see in this story, true and heartfelt confession has the power to heal people; and it has the power to heal relationships. The father forgave him and they were able once again to have a relationship. They were able to start off anew.

A second thing that amazes and bring joy is –

Someone who takes their concern to the person who wronged them

If in the first case you were the one who wronged another, in this case you have been wronged.

Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” (NIV) Go to them in private, so that they can hear you and you can hear them and you can sort through the issue.

Now there is no doubt that this is hard to do. We most often prefer not to do this because we are conflict avoiders. We prefer to let the relationship wither rather than work hard to keep things right. And what a shocking indictment of our lack of love for one another this is!

But not only this, our conflict avoidance becomes an idol for us because it is more important to us than doing what Jesus teaches us. So in reality, we love neither God nor our neighbor.

When we don’t deal with things face to face we end up harboring resentment in our hearts which is poison within us. Or we might also be more active by spreading gossip. That is, instead of going to the person who wronged us, we go to everyone else and tell them about the wrong and how bad the person is. So not only is your relationship with the person damaged or destroyed, other people’s relationships with the person are damaged or destroyed.

It may seem risky, and it may be hard, but there is no other way if you want to maintain the relationship and be faithful to God. Take your concern to the person who wronged you.

A third thing that amazes and brings joy is –

Someone who can deliver a good admonition

Admonition means “counsel or warning against fault or oversight.” In Matthew 18:15 it is translated – “point out their fault.” (NIV)

But how do we do this rightly so that its good admonition? Here are some keys:

Restoration is the goal. We go to “win them over” – Matthew 18:15 (NIV). Paul calls it “restoring” them in Galatians 6:1. We need to speak in a way that it can be received and have a positive outcome.

Mercy is necessary. We don’t go to condemn the person, judge them and put them down. As Jesus taught us in Luke 6:37-42 it is fine to take the speck out of someone else’s eye, but we must make sure we don’t have a log in ours; that is, a lack of mercy.

Humility is required. We have to be humble because we know that we are only forgiven sinners. We are not better than the person we go to. Paul says, “Take care that you yourselves are not tempted” Galatians 6:1 (NRSV). We too could fall into sin again, if we are not careful.

Gentleness is key. Paul says, “If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who have the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” – Galatians 6:1 (NRSV). There is no place for harshness.

When we do all this, we are giving what Proverbs 15:31 calls “life-giving reproof”; admonition that can truly bless and help someone.

A fourth thing that amazes and brings joy is –

Someone who can hear and receive admonition

If going to another person with an admonition is hard, I think it is equally or perhaps more hard to be admonished; to receive admonition. Its hard because we don’t like to admit that we have done wrong. And we don’t like it if someone else points this out.

That’s why the book of Proverbs makes the point that it is scoffers (those who mock, deride, show contempt to others) who do not receive reproof – Proverbs 9:8; 15:12. And we don’t want to be scoffers!

It tells us that “he who hates reproof is stupid” – Proverbs 12:1. And we don’t want to be stupid! And it says, “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck (is stubborn or arrogant and won’t listen) will suddenly be broken beyond healing” – Proverbs 29:1. They will not receive the life-giving help that admonition can bring. And we don’t want to be in this position!

Proverbs also gives us positive encouragement to receive admonition, by pointing out that there are many benefits to it:

  • Proverbs 13:18 – “whoever heeds reproof is honored.”
  • Proverbs 15:5 – “whoever heeds reproof is prudent.”
  • Proverbs 10:17 – “whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life”
  • Proverbs 15:31 – “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise”
  • Proverbs 15:32 – “he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.”

Receiving admonition is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of wisdom and maturity. That’s because the wise person wants to grow and be more faithful to God in every area of life, and so they are able to hear from another about their faults and any wrongs they may have done. And that’s why Proverbs 9:8 says, “Reprove a wise person and they will love you.” They will appreciate what you have done for them.

And so let’s be open to this, even if it is not done exactly correctly in your eyes (not tactfully or in a fully sensitive way). No, no. Listen for what God is saying to you through the person.

A fifth thing that amazes and brings joy is –

Someone who doesn’t judge by appearances

Jesus said to the Jewish leaders who wrongly judged him, “Do not judge by appearances, but with right judgment” – John 7:24. And we should not judge each other by appearances. That is, don’t come to conclusions about someone else when you don’t know all the facts, when you have just overheard something or seen something that could be interpreted in various ways, or heard a rumor from a third party.

Never come to conclusions about someone else based on these things. How many relationships have been damaged or destroyed in this way! If there is a rumor or a question – find out the truth. Go to the person.

Leaders are especially vulnerable to this. And sometimes when there are issues that must remain private we can’t even say fully why some decision are made. But don’t judge by appearances. Have some trust and then if you need to, ask leadership any questions you have.

So here are five things that amaze and bring joy. Someone who:

  1. truly confesses their wrong
  2. takes their concern to the offender
  3. delivers a good admonition
  4. receives admonition
  5. doesn’t judge by appearances

The reason these qualities are amazing and bring joy is that they don’t come naturally to us. These are not our natural inclinations. These are a sure sign of God’s love working in our heart. They come from the Spirit of God working in us so that we both love God and do what he tells us, and we love our brothers and sisters as well.

William Higgins

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