Posts Tagged ‘reconciliation’

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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Repentance is talked about a lot in Scripture. It is our proper response to God when we sin. It is also our proper response to other people we have wronged. We will focus on this second part – if I sin against someone and want to make it right, what should I do?

We will look at the story of the prodigal son. Jesus uses this story to illustrate what true repentance looks like – both toward God and toward other people at the same time. We will also look at other scriptures that fill out the meaning of repentance toward the one we have harmed.

The prodigal son definitely sinned against his father:

  • After he got his share of his father’s property he squandered it all in a far country on reckless living – v. 13.
  • He disobeyed his father – v. 29. (No doubt his father told him not to go away and be reckless, but he did it anyway).
  • He devoured his father’s property with prostitutes – v. 30.

So he’s a good candidate to teach us about repentance.

The meaning of repentance

Based on how the word “repentance” is used in the New Testament, it means – a change of heart and mind that leads you to do what is right. We see this in the prodigal son – vs. 17-18. First, “he came to himself” – he had a new realization; a new perspective on his situation. What he has done is wrong. Second, he went back to his father to make things right. So here we see a change of heart and mind that led to appropriate action.

I want to emphasize this second point. Repentance is not just something that happens within you – an inner intention or feeling bad about what you did. Repentance leads to appropriate action so that you stop doing what is wrong and you do what is right. As John the Baptist said in Luke 3:8 –“Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” What

are these fruits? The context show us that it means doing what is right in our relationships with others. Paul’s

message is stated in Acts 26:20 – “Repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” Repentance always involves right deeds, not just an inner change of heart about our wrong deeds.

Four actions that accompany repentance

We also see in the story of the prodigal son four actions that accompany true repentance – which help fill out for us what repentance looks like.

1) Expressions of humility and regret. The prodigal son said, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” – v. 19. When you have done what is wrong it is not a time to be proud. It is a time for humility and sorrow. The prodigal recognizes this, for he has not acted as a son. He has greatly hurt his father and wasted his resources.

When we hurt others we need to see and realize the damage and pain we have caused and we need to humble ourselves. After James calls his readers to repentance he says, “Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection” – James 4:9. It is right to feel badly and to have regret. David calls this “a broken and contrite heart” – Psalm 51:17. And you should express this regret to the person you have wronged.

2) Confession of sin. The prodigal son said, “Father I have sinned against heaven and before you” – v. 18. He freely confessed his sin to the one he wronged.

James talks about this, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” -James 5:16. (I take it that this means confessing to the one you have offended).

Confession means being absolutely honest – this is what I did. Confession means owning what you did – I did it and it was wrong – and that’s it. Not – “Yes, I did what was wrong, but it wasn’t my fault – there was this circumstance, and that issue that has to be considered, and look at what you did. . .”  You can imagine if the prodigal lived in our day he might say to his father – “You didn’t raise me right!” No, true confession means you have to own what you did. Proverbs 18:12 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,  but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

3) Seek mercy so there can be reconciliation. The prodigal son said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father” – vs. 17-18. He wanted to be reunited with his father. So he got up and went to him. “Can I at least by your servant?” he is asking.

Jesus talks about this also in Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your sister or brother has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” If you have wronged someone – don’t even prioritize worship to God (the highest priority) over making things right with the one you have wronged. First go and be reconciled to your brother or sister. You need to try to restore the relationship you have damaged by seeking forgiveness and reconciliation

4) Take responsibility for the consequences of your sin The prodigal son said, “Treat me as one of your hired servants” – vs. 19. He was ready to live there as a servant. He knew there were consequences for his actions. Now, his father, in love and grace, accepted him back as a son. But notice – he still lost all that he had, for all the rest that the father had was the other son’s and that would not change.

The example of Zacchaeus’ repentance speaks to this. He was a tax collector who was despised because he made his profit off charging more taxes than were necessary. When he repented he said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” – Luke 19:8. He takes responsibility for his sin by giving back of his great wealth to those he cheated and he makes amends to those he stole from. In the same way if you have harmed others in a way that can be made right – do your best to do that; try hard to make it right; make it up to them if possible.

Repentance as a way of life

We all need to learn how to repent and practice this regularly because we all fail at times, sometimes really badly in our relationships with each other.

It is a practice that is necessary first of all because if we don’t repent of our wrongdoing we will be judged by God. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” – Luke 13:3.

But more to our focus, it is necessary because if we don’t repent we can’t work toward restoration of relationships damaged by our sin. We end up hurting each other with no way to find peace; no way to be a community of believers in this place.

Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” – Luke 17:3. This is directed at the one who is sinned against and teaches that forgiveness is necessary. But notice here – Jesus is also saying you need repentance to heal a relationship wounded by sin. You need both.

William Higgins

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