Correcting Another Believer
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:15-20 NLT
My Thoughts: “Oh if only….” however, before I type another word, my fingers pause mid-air and I hear a whisper “careful, Cecilia, careful!”
Have you ever noticed when you are about to type or say the word “they,” the Lord reminds you that you better look at yourself in the mirror first? No doubt, the Lord has something to say to me and I get to share it with you. 😳 So, let’s jump right into what Jesus is saying, shall we?
I want to point out that Jesus is talking to believer’s about correcting other believer’s, so this should be an easy lesson for us. After all, believers are like-minded, and we are all working towards being more like Jesus. Isn’t that right?
I want so badly to say “yes” to these truths! But my truth is I do not find it easy whether I am the teller or the receiver of an offense.
Normally I am a very non-confrontational person and I know that comes from my abusive past. I am also a ‘tip-toe-through-the-daisy’s’ kind of gal and I want everyone to get along and be nice to each other!
However, whether a Jesus following believer or a lost sinner, let’s remember we are all still sinner’s (Romans 3:10, 23), and neither of us are always willing to look at or face our mistakes or sins, are we?
“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:10, 23 NLT
What happens when I am confronted with an offense depends on the person. I usually tend to bristle up and start preparing a rebuttal. Hinging on who they are, how well we know each other, and how it is delivered, determines my ultimate reaction.
For instance, when confronted with an offense by my husband, my kiddos, or my family, they know I may be getting ready to put on my word boxing gloves. They might have to get prepared for a comeback punch (i.e. excuses or sassy words)!
Another example: if you are a friend I know well and you lovingly approach me with an offense, I probably will not let you see my fighter side. None-the-less, I may still be preparing a wordy rebuttal, or my silence may speak louder than my comeback punch.
Lastly, if I do not know someone well at all, and they point out an offense, I may deliver a comeback punch first and ask questions later.
(Say I am not the only one who does this! Mercy!)
Please do not close this blog! I have good news and not just my terrible confessions! I am getting better at not preparing those rebuttal’s or comeback punches! How am I doing that? It is only because of my relationship with Jesus, reading and knowing the Bible, and the examples of so many loving Christian family and friends.
Once I surrendered my heart to Jesus, He began a process of changing me to look AND act like him. Do I still mess up? Yes. But, remember, we are all sinners and the main difference between me—a woman who has chosen to follow Jesus—and a sinner—someone who does not know Jesus—is forgiveness.
“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16a NLT
Before I became a Christ follower I could not trust, I would not change, I did not want to admit an offense without putting blame on someone else. Once Jesus died for my sins (and yes, yours too!), I was redeemed when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
“When he died, he died once to break the power of sin.” Romans 6:10a NLT
That means my thought process began to change and while I might start my old habit of preparing a defensive rebuttal, another voice in my soul, the Holy Spirit that lives in me will now ask my heart: is that what you really want to say? Is that response an accurate representation of Jesus?
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalms 19:14 NLT
This verse still challenges me! When I first read this verse the words that flew out of my mouth were, “Oh no!” You see, although I was accurately speaking the right words, they did not always line up with what was in my heart. I was “meditating” or thinking something entirely different and it was not pleasing to the Lord!
Please do not get discouraged if the same thing happens to you! You see, I was half right, and you are too.
When I speak pleasing words, it is an act of obedience to the Lord. Over time as I repeat this pleasing behavior, my heart begins to get in line with those pleasing words and eventually both my words and my heart are in alignment. Eventually I will automatically speak pleasing words of grace and mercy in place of contentious comeback words.
The bonus is that it not only brings me peace and calm, I grow spiritually. My countenance begins to change just a little bit more and my reflection begins to mirror Jesus which brings His joy and approval. There is nothing more precious to me than knowing I have pleased Jesus!
I was blessed to own a big ole rescue dog for 11 months. She was 86 pounds and her body and soul were a broken mess. One of her “offenses” was separation anxiety and she would tear things up when we left her alone in our home. I did not want to always crate her when I left, so the vet and I teamed up together to help her change her bad behavior. He provided anxiety meds and I gave her little separation training. I would close her in a room and talk to her through the door. I repeated this process with her in many different times and ways, until she began to understand I was coming back. When I opened the door and saw she had not torn things up, we would have a party! She got applause! She got excitement! She got hugs and praise! The best part (for her) was she also got a treat! She eventually stopped her anxious bad behavior because she knew it made me happy and she loved to make me happy! Deep down in that brokenness, she learned to trust me, and she knew that when she did the right thing, good things happened! ❤️
That is what happens when we act in true obedience to God! We get applause in heaven, we get a feeling in our souls that feels like the best hug ever, we can feel the excitement, and He blesses our obedience.
Plus, Jesus says right here in His words:
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 NLT
It might not feel so great to hear we’ve committed an offense, but if we listen from our heart, and sincerely ask for help to right a wrong, our Father in heaven will help us, and Jesus will be there among us. I love that!
Note: one of the greatest books I have ever read about helping to learn how to correct an offense (other than the Bible) was written by Randy Alcorn, “The Grace and Truth Paradox.” It is a small book in size and number of pages but rich with wisdom about this subject. You will want this in your online or bookshelf library!
In the end, (among believers) there should be no court other than the church. Ideally, the church’s decision should be God-guided and based on discernment from the Bible. Therefore, believers have the responsibility to bring unresolved conflicts or sins to the church, and the church has the responsibility to use God’s word to seek resolution to conflicts or sin. That is a big responsibility for the church! But if each person, along with church leadership are praying for God’s will, and not just their own will, a pleasing resolution will be reached.
Closing Prayer: Father, it is so hard for me to easily accept when I have committed a wrong, but thankfully, because I am a believer in Jesus, You left the Holy Spirit in me. I now understand the importance of setting things right and I pray it does not take more than one loving believer to show me the way when I have committed an offense. Lord thank You for Your guiding words today that teach us they are so much more powerful and joyful than comeback words.
Father, there are so many in my life who need that relationship with You and I pray, from my heart, that their hearts are changed soon. I will never stop asking or praying Your promises to me back to You! In fact, I cannot wait to rejoice and have a party when it happens!
Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers. Genesis 17:2 NIV
I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.