I was in a conversation a month or so ago with a person who was wrestling with how to address an interpersonal struggle. I was explaining how Matthew 18:15-17 lays out a framework for approaching another believer to resolve conflict. The next statement from this person is one I had heard before: “Well, the way ______ is acting, I doubt if he even is a Christian, so I am not sure I need to follow those verses!”
When we are angry at someone else, particularly another believer who we feel has hurt us, we can be quick to judge their entire character based upon the one act that caused us pain. Even worse, little by little we walk through the mine field of assumptions and select a long list of the “whys” and the “I bet ifs” to carefully paint the other person in the worst light possible, often before we have even heard their explanation. Pain can make us react this way. So we need to be extra careful, especially when we feel that we have been attacked and when we feel the pain caused by controversy, to be sure we respond correctly.
Earlier in Matthew, Jesus said “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2). If I have been hurt by another person, particularly another Christian, and I judge their whole character on this one event, this verse tells me that I should expect others to judge my whole character on any one action I might take; a very scary thought unless you happen to lead a perfect life! This other person may have hurt me, but I need to recognize that they are not perfect, just like I am not perfect. Do I want to be judged on my imperfections? Of course not! Then neither should I judge someone else who just slipped up. What I need to do is exactly what Matthew 18 tells me to do: go to them and talk it through. I do not need to strike back, impugn their character and decide that they obviously have not been saved by the blood of Christ. I need to admit that I have either done the same thing or am at least capable of doing the same thing and that we both need the forgiveness of Christ. We are the same; we both screw up and we both need help.
So, the next time you are hurt by someone else, go immediately to the cross of Christ. Ask for forgiveness for when you hurt others and ask for the grace to forgive this person who has just hurt you. This will reshape your attitude so that you can start down the Matthew 18 path of reconciliation with the right heart for your brother or sister who needs Christ every day, just like you do.
Just like we all do.
©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.