Forgiveness … Jesus’ Way

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

An unwillingness to forgive and a desire for revenge bring us much harm.




Wouldn’t it be far more civil and compassionate–not to mention more merciful, loving, and obedient–if when offended by a brother or sister in Christ, believers would heed our Lord’s instructions presented in our verses for today? Instead, when offence occurs, we oftentimes unforgivingly run straight to everyone else. We love to spout forth the wrong doing, in lieu of lovingly going first to the offender, and get in our version of how we were wronged. We are particularly prone to head for people we know will be readily sympathetic to our case, building an alliance to defame and shame those who have hurt us. Malice and anger fester and bleed and ultimately produce bitterness. This unwillingness to forgive and a desire for revenge bring us much harm. Paul tells us in Romans:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21)

Jesus gives us good reason for forgiveness in the Sermon on the Mount earlier in Matthew:

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
(John 13:34-35)
Jesus’ Words today include any disagreement or any quarrel among Christians. It is important to preserve Christ’s church with purity, peace and order. The world is to know us by the love we have for one another. We have been freely forgiven and–as our Lord demonstrated by His example–we are to freely forgive.

As believers we are to look at each offense through merciful eyes knowing that we often offend as well. Yet, it is not loving, kind, or helpful to continue to simply gloss over matters of offence, perhaps pretending they never happened. If the offence is an ongoing pattern in another believer’s life, we must work out our conflict with the love of Christ. Does it help someone to allow them to continue in an unkind or impudent manner? We are not to wait for them to come to us; rather we are to prayerfully go to them, seeking to settle matters quickly. Sins are prone to silence the conscience of those indulging in them and oftentimes help is needed to arouse it.

The approach should always be from a sinner to a sinner. The rebuke must also be loving, prayerful and private. No human is perfect. All believers in Jesus are in progress and, as Scripture states, mercy triumphs over judgment. We must, in faithfulness, meekness, and love, present the offence privately. We should never be seeking shame for a brother or sister. Repentance is the goal and always for the good of the offender. James tells us:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:12-13)

Jesus goes deeper. If the sin continues, two or three others are to be taken along in an effort to reason the case further with the offender ever seeking his good. God’s work is to be done effectively with as little noise as possible.

One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15)

Take It to Heart

Only if the brother or sister staunchly refuses to work out the matter is the church is to get involved in order to examine the matter. Here again, the outcome desired is repentance and restitution of relationship. Ultimately, the offender is not to be looked upon as a demon, but as one who is in a position to be received and restored. Remember, the shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep and went looking for the one who needed restoration.

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