Have you ever been offended by a Christian brother or sister and had a hard time letting it go? You pray about it and try to give it to the Lord, yet you find yourself dwelling on it and experiencing unwanted emotions of hurt, anger and resentment. This happens to every one of us, but it’s what we choose to do about it that makes the difference between a loving heart and a bitter heart. So, what should our attitude and actions be when we are offended by a fellow believer: righteous indignation, retribution, denying our feelings and nobly looking past the offense? Well, Matthew 18:15-17 explains a pattern of conduct to follow when we find ourselves in this situation.
In the preceding verses Jesus teaches us the importance of being humble followed by a strong admonition not to give offense. These two points are the foundation we need to build on when we begin to apply the first step – “Moreover 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.” The goal of confrontation must be restoration. A humble heart and an approach that does not bring offense are required. If we desire to simply “set the record straight” or to make the other person aware of their shortcomings we are off target. We are reminded by Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth in love. Jon Courson said it this way, “Love without truth is hypocrisy. But truth without love is brutality.” The scripture tells us to “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This means without first complaining or gossiping about it to others. But, what does “sins against you” mean? Are we to confront our brothers and sisters every time we feel offended? I don’t think so. I believe we need to examine our hearts closely because sometimes the entire problem is contained therein. King David said it like this, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139:23-24)
We need to be prayerful about how to handle each situation and develop a balance between confrontation and bearing with one another. Sometimes we just need to ask God to help us see the other person through His eyes, to help us extend His grace to them and to use the circumstances to grow the Fruits of the Spirit in us.
The next time you’re faced with this situation, and there will be a next time, remember you have a choice you can ask God to help you confront in love for the purpose of restoration or you can ask God to help you grow in patience, longsuffering, kindness and gentleness. There is a third option – you can gossip, retaliate and harbor bitterness. I don’t recommend the last option though.