Relationships are always challenging because at some stage or the other something goes wrong … and the reason is that when you put two or more sinners together there will always be friction of some sort and at some stage. Look around the world as you read newspapers and magazines and watch TV news. See all the marital failure, violence, rape, murder, crime, revenge, tensions within the leadership of countries, friction between one country and another … and ask, “what is the root cause of such relational failure or breakdown?”
Generally it is sin and specifically it is a reluctance to live together in harmony or the belief … “I am / we are better than you” or “I am / we are right and you are wrong” … with the foundation cast in selfishness, the need for power … and might I say … arrogance. This sadly spills over into the Christian Church and Christian families. Too often there are tensions and attitudes and feelings or beliefs that “I am better than you” or “I am right and you are wrong”. The Church (Kingdom of Jesus) cannot be the Light or Salt of the World if we have such attitudes or emotions prevailing. How do we deal with this?
First, remember that there is always a “weaker brother / sister”. Actually, we too were once the “weaker brother or sister”.
Ro 14:1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.
Too often we want to reject a fellow believer, who is new in the faith or has been in a fellowship group where the Bible has not been taught correctly, for their “beliefs, ideas, doctrines or theology” might be unorthodox or bordering on heresy. We were there! I remember when I was saved my doctrine of evangelism was all about hell. I warned people about the consequences of hell without offering them the alternative (Jesus’ Gospel and Heaven). It might be relating to smoking tobacco, consuming alcohol, wearing lipstick, wearing a hat to church, shopping on a Sunday … and one could continue endlessly … but you get the point. If the person has exercised faith in Jesus, confessed their sin, being pardoned, is living a repentant lifestyle … why judge that person because of things such as I have mentioned when the Bible is silent about such “disputable matters”? Rather than get into a fight or reject the person’s commitment to Jesus or block the person from your life, resort to prayer and seek ways to fellowship with the intention of discipleship.
Second, remember there is always an offending “brother or sister”. From time to time, as saved sinners we do tramp on someone’s toes … meaning that we do offend, hurt or misunderstand a fellows Christian. This is where we need to keep short accounts with God and with each other. Whether we sin against (hurt) another believer, or they against us … we need to sort the matter (sin, unhappiness, friction) out as soon as possible.
Mt 5:23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
It is a Gospel contradiction for brother and brother, sister and sister or brother / sister, sister / brother to remain angered with each other and not be on speaking terms. Jesus is so pointed and practical that He says that should you be in this environment and you are at a worship service and you remember this unhappy, dysfunctional relationship … stop what you are doing at church and go and make the matter right immediately. The emphasis is on the urgent and the reconciliation. Paul, under inspiration, says:
Eph 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
Third, remember there is always the guilty “brother or sister”. Where point two refers mainly to you changing your attitude and making right with the Christian who offended you … this point deals with the Christian who is sinning (living in public sin; doing things that are against the Gospel) and maybe aware of it or maybe unaware of it.
Mt 18:15 “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. 16 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.’ 17 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.”
Here we have a Biblical Strategy of helping a brother or sister to get out of a sin or out of sins … but there is a formula. They sin against you and you try and discuss the matter with the person in private. Should this fail you take along a witness or two. Should this not achieve the desired intention, you tell it to the church … and if this does not work you treat that person as a pagan … as a non-believer … by implication the church censures the person. The whole intent is not to make the problem worse but to bring that soul to repentance and into reconciliation. Remember there is the sin addict “brother or sister”.
Gal 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Getting caught in a sin does not imply this sin is a once off sin. It seems to be a regular or habitual sin … like the person is addicted to a specific sin that is now exposed. The mature believer needs, through prayer and faith and gentleness help the “sinking” brother or sister in their crisis. See verse 2 … “carry each other’s burdens” … help the sin addict to recover and be restored … but watch yourself that you don’t fall too.
The Gospel way is always to help a brother or sister hampered with the heavy weight of sin to repent, be restored and reconciled. This is how Christians deal with strife, anger, disappointment and sinfulness.
Dear God, thank You for showing us in Your Word how we ought to deal with our sin and our brother or sister’s sin to restore healthy functional relationships with Your Church. Lord, the beauty of Your oneness and union as Triune God impresses upon us unity, fellowship and oneness within the splendor of Your precious love. Amen.