Devotional: June 30, 2020
“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.
“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”
Matthew 18: 15-20 The Message
One of the sad truths about life is that we sometimes hurt those with whom we are closest. Other times, they hurt us. Sometimes, the wounds are intentional. Other times, they are not. The truth is that sin and misunderstandings happen in every relationship, even those between fellow believers, within the church. Perhaps it might be more accurate for this passage to begin, “When a fellow believer hurts you,” rather than “If a fellow believer hurts you.”
I recently had a dream in which I was back on the campus of my Seminary. I was gathered with alumni and current students, one of whom was complaining about how a fellow student had taken his favorite kind of soft drink, leaving him to choose from some other choices. While the offense seems rather trivial, the hurt he was experiencing appeared real to me in my dream. He was not joking about this matter. There was no smile on his face.
In my dream, the words I offered to him were these: “One of the things we all learn here at the Seminary is that this is a school for sinners. It is not a school for saints. People do things to others which suck.”
Now I have to say, I seldom have dreams where I come off so profound. Usually my dreams are about far less significant subjects. Yet this dream stuck with me, because it reminded me about the hurt and pain which happens between Christians. Sometimes, the pain is simple, and sometimes it is significant. It can occur between individuals, or between individual churches, or even between denominations.
Different churches have reacted to the pandemic in different ways. Some churches are reopening, and others (like ours) are not choosing to do so at this time. How churches view the different choices of other churches presents an opportunity. Churches can either snipe at one another, or lift one another up in prayer. We all have a choice. Unfortunately, we Christians do not have a great history of getting along with one another. One cynical observer even said, “The Christian army is the only one which shoots its wounded.” Sadly, there is some truth to that statement.
Jesus offers us a positive path forward when dealing with the hurts we all experience. When they occur, let us take full advantage of his instruction, so that our relationships with fellow believers will be restored, maintained, and strengthened, to the glory of God!
You modeled forgiveness, and encouraged us to forgive one another when a hurt occurs. When we are most deeply wounded, help us to remember Your words. May we not lash out in anger, but calmly seek to repair and restore our relationships with fellow believers. We pray this prayer in the name of Your son, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.