…But I won’t ever treat you the same
…But I will make sure you never forget it
…But I don’t think you should serve any more
…But I will keep my distance from you
…But I will tell others about your sin
…But I will make you feel like a pariah
The very word “forgive” means to dismiss or release something from one’s presence, to let go and send away and to release from moral obligation or consequence (BDAG, 156). That sounds very different from some of the substitute offerings mentioned above. Have we ever considered all the Lord has to say about our forgiving one another?
- But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Mt. 6:15).
- If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother (Mt. 18:15).
- The moral of the parable of the man forgiven much who refused to forgive the one who owed him little: ” And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Mt. 18:34-35).
- Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).
- Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32).
- Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you (Col. 3:13).
Perhaps in our zeal (or defensiveness) to remind the offender that their sin has consequences, we add to those consequences through choices we make in response to their repentance. A penitent sinner is already struggling with guilt and accepting God’s forgiveness. The last thing we should do is make it harder for them to overcome. When they do try to put their spiritual lives back together again, we should rejoice for them and help them any way we can. Whether their sin is known to only a few or to everyone, we must handle it the way the Lord teaches us to. Jesus teaches that we can be guilty of sin ourselves by mishandling the challenging discipline of forgiving. May He help us as we strive to do it.
Would you believe that not everyone always agrees with what I teach and preach? Of course, I may not always know—at least directly—that someone disagrees with my message. Yet, my greatest respect is for that brother or sister who has a problem with me and tells me so! When they address that to me in kindness and love, I am left with much greater admiration for them. The same respect is reserved for those who handle those occasions when my words or behavior might come across hurtful with gentle directness. Perhaps it is because subtleties like pouting, passive aggression, silence, and withdrawal are easily missed by one so slow of wit as myself. Perhaps it is because of the great disdain I, and most others, feel for sharp-tongued tactics like gossip and slander. “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed” (Pr. 27:5). This challenges me to follow such good examples and pursue active peace than passive aggression.
Talking out our problems is a sign of the church understanding the family aspect of its nature. Happy is the physical family who finds functional ways to work through its problems, knowing that each member is imperfect and prone to do what offends. The church is no different, though the blood that binds us does not course through our veins but poured forth from the cross of our Savior. Together, we comprise the “house of God” (1 Ti. 3:15). What a precious relationship, meant to be treasured!
Talking out our problems is the best way to clear up misunderstandings and misperceptions. It is possible to misjudge the heart, motives, words, and actions of others. Avoiding the problems or persons may work to avoid unpleasant conflict, but it leaves the problem to fester and grow worse.
Talking out our problems is the biblical pattern. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out the way to resolve “internal problems” within His body. To choose a different route is to deviate from the way He has chosen.
Another great proverb says, “He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue” (Pr. 28:23). May God help me to embrace that truth and pursue it, all while we “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19). That does not mean avoiding the unpleasant or saying the difficult. Some times tackling the unpleasant and difficult is our surest way to “make for peace…”