Posts Tagged ‘Luke 17:3’

In working with those who seek to join the church, I try to make a point of telling people, “You aren’t joining a group of angels. You most likely will have conflict, be wronged, or have cause to get angry at times.” I say this to get rid of any illusions to the contrary or false expectations

Church is real life, with real people and if we seek to be a close community, that is involved in each others’ lives this stuff will happen

And so I ask, “Are you committed to working through this kind of stuff?” Jesus calls us to live in peace, not just walk away from each other when there are problems – like the world does. We are to be a different kind of community; one empowered by God to live in peace with one another.

We are really looking once again at Luke 17:3 – “If a brother sins, tell him to stop; if he repents forgive him.” We have dealt with what repentance looks like. And we have dealt with what forgiveness looks like. So today we look at what it means, in the words of this verse, to “tell him or her to stop.”

I am also bringing in Matthew 18:15. It says, “If your brother (or sister) sins, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

Here is a checklist of seven things to do if a fellow believer wrongs you:

1. Make sure that you really have been wronged

This may seen strange to say, but sometimes our feelings get hurt or we get annoyed and angry, but we haven’t been wronged – at least not seriously. So we need to be discerning.

Is it a misunderstanding?  When people don’t communicate well, or don’t know each other well, or don’t understand each other (maybe they come from different cultural backgrounds) this is always a real possibility. In some cases you may think you have been wronged, but really the different parties just aren’t able to communicate with each other.

Is it a personality clash? Some people just don’t get along! They annoy each other and set each other off. They will probably never be close friends. And that’s OK. God likes different kinds of people. We are not all the same or even similar. We have to love each other, but we don’t have to be best friends.

This is a part of life – just don’t read into the other’s actions the worst possible motive, or make the worst assumptions just because your personalities clash. Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Put on . . . compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another . . ..” We need to learn to bear with one another in love.


Also, when there is an offense, ask, “Is this a minor issue that can be overlooked? For example if someone agrees to help you to do some project, but they forget about it and don’t show up – well this made you work more and maybe messed up your plans, but how badly have you been wronged? Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

How do you know if it needs to be dealt with? Check your anger level. Does it leave you feeling resentment or even a desire to get even? If there is abiding anger then deal with it.

2. Take the initiative and go

When there is a real wrong, Jesus tells us, “go” – Matthew 18:15.

I want us to notice first of all that if someone wrongs you, they should take the initiative to come to you and repent. This is what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:23-24. Speaking to the person, he says, if you have offended someone – “.. . leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother . . ..” If you have done the wrong you are to go and make it right.

But if they don’t, don’t just let it slide. You are to go to them. In some cases, they may not be aware of what has happened or how you feel about it.

3. Go and deal with the person face to face

Jesus says, “between you and him alone” – Matthew 18:15. It needs to be a private conversation. In other words don’t go public with it at this point. Also, don’t go to someone else with gossip. Keep it between the two of you.

Now in some circumstances there has to be others involved. If the other person is intimidating or has power over the one who is wronged, for instance. But even here, when someone goes along, it is still to be seen as a private event, not a pubic one.

4. Go in order to make sure what happened

Jesus says, “go . . . between you and him” –  Matthew 18:15.

Don’t rely on hearsay, you know, when someone tells you that so and so did something or said something about you that was wrong.

Jesus tells us, “Do not judge by appearances, but with right judgment” – John 7:24. If you go to the person you may find that it ends up to be a misunderstanding or a minor issue. And then this becomes the opportunity to clear things up.

And even if it is obvious that you have been wronged (there is not hearsay involved), don’t reach a final verdict about all that has happened, or what they were thinking, or their motivation. Talk to the person that has wronged you to get the whole story, not just your side.

(In some cases this step may be unnecessary – when the wrong is great and the motivation is publicly known.)

5. Go in order to restore the person

In other words, go for the right reason. There is always the temptation to go off on them in anger. But the goal here is to “gain” your fellow believer. Jesus says, “go . . .. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother (sister)” – Matthew 18:15.

In the case of a personal wrong, it means personal reconciliation. But it also means on another level the restoration of someone caught in sin back to a right relationship with God

If this is our goal, we have to deal with our anger before we go. As Paul says about confronting people in general, “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).

6. Lay out the wrong and call the person to account

Jesus says, “tell him his fault” – Matthew 18:15. This word means to admonish, chastise, reprove or call to account. In Luke 17:3 the word for “tell him to stop” means to rebuke, censure or chide.

You are to confront the person – this is what you did and it was wrong and you need to do something about it

7. If the person listens to you, accept their repentance

Jesus says, “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother (sister)” – Matthew 18:15. “Listen” here means they really hear you, with the implication that they act appropriately with repentance.

This is what we talked about last week. In the words of Luke 17:3, “If a brother sins, tell him to stop; if he repents (if he listens to you and repents) forgive him.”

Here is a summary of –

The seven steps

  1.     Make sure that you really have been wronged
  2.     Take the initiative and go
  3.     Go and deal with the person face to face
  4.     Go in order to make sure what happened
  5.     Go in order to restore the person
  6.     Lay out the wrong and call the person to account
  7.     If the person listens to you, accept their repentance

Finally there is the question you have all been thinking about –

“Do I have to?”

I don’t know anyone who wants to go and confront someone about a wrong. Our culture values privacy and conflict avoidance. In our culture we almost always choose not to deal with these kinds of issues. We afraid and we think it is all too messy. In fact, we are willing to sacrifice the relationship with each other, rather than to try to deal with the issues and find healing.

But Jesus values peace among his followers and not our desires for privacy or conflict avoidance. And so he tells us: Go to the one who has wronged you and seek peace.


It may be hard, but it is the only way the relationship can heal. Especially if the person hasn’t come to you, or isn’t even aware of the problem

So we need to set aside our fears, our cultural values, and whatever else stands in the way. We need to walk in faith, and do what Jesus tells us to do, even when it is difficult.

William Higgins

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