Face it…the longer you live, the more opportunities you have to be offended. It’s inevitable. The only way to never be hurt, offended or disappointed is to live alone in a cave in a remote island somewhere far away. Even then, the thought of people from your past can cause you problems if not dealt with properly. People are human and will from time to time disappoint, hurt, and offend you. Even the best of people will eventually fall short in your relationship and expectations. You will also eventually fall short as well. When this happens to the Christian it is their duty to make all attempts to reconcile the relationship. Even if our flesh screams separation, walls, revenge, or hate we must approach our brother or sister in Christ with truth in love. A true believer gives benefit of the doubt until they can meet and work through the issues.
I’ve learned 95% of the time the burden of failure falls on both people involved. It is usually never one sided. Even if it starts off one sided, when the offended fails to properly confront the offender they share in the lack of restoration of relationship. Scripture calls believers to oneness and unity (e.g. Ephesians 4:1-6). Jesus gives us the pattern of the reconciliation process in Matthew 18:15-20. Jesus says go privately to him first and “show him his fault”. This does not mean pass judgment but win him over with your love in a way that says, “I’m hurt but desire reconciliation not revenge.” It’s hard to accept a rebuke but it is much easier when it comes with true humility (Galatians 6:1). For reconciliation to happen both parties must administer and receive the correction humbly.
If this does not work you do not give up. There is a second step (because God gives us second chances). Verse 16 instructs us to take two or three witnesses with us. This is not to “gang up” on them but to be a mentoring third party – one who will lovingly stand for truth of Scripture and correct both parties if necessary. The extra people should be mature believers not easily swayed by emotions or gossip. What if that meeting doesn’t work? Now can I write them off? No, there is a third step. “Tell it to the Church” is not “grab a microphone and tell everyone present Sunday about it right after communion. It also isn’t go gossip about your situation with the rest of the church or post it on your Facebook page in the guise of generality or “asking for a friend”. The third step really means get upper church leadership involved because both parties have met a couple of times but reconciliation still isn’t within their grasp and they desire peace and restoration. If these steps are followed correctly (which means patiently, Biblically, with forgiveness and repentance in high view) you are well on your way to a mended relationship. If one party refuses to heed Biblical counsel, follow through these steps given by Jesus Himself, and forgive/repent, the fourth step is to treat them like they are a pagan or tax collector (treat them like they are acting). Distance can only be put in place after all the steps have been done properly.
There is nothing believers cannot work through. It may take several meetings and an extended period of healing but all things are possible in the Lord. A couple of practical tips would be don’t try to work out issues over social media, texting, email, phone, etc. Face to face is always best (the other forms didn’t exist when Jesus gave us these steps). Also, you’ll need to walk in forgiveness after all of the meetings subside because Satan will tempt you to go back on your steps to reconciliation. Jesus prayed for us to be one with each other like He and His Father are one (John 17:21-26). Jesus is praying and He gave us a plan so don’t let pride get in the way of renewing the relationship and showing the world the power of Jesus’ reconciliation.
Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.