Just Between the Two of You

July 19, 2019 | by: Shea Oakley | 0 Comments

Posted in: Follow Up From Sermons

In recent weeks we have been learning about how to handle situations in which someone in a church fellowship is engaged in ongoing wrong behavior.

Matthew 18:15-17 says, “If your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they 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 they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

For me the toughest part of this passage is about the need to deal with the offending person by speaking to them about the problem “just between the two of you.” This implies that you don’t first go and gossip about what is going on to get a bunch of people on your side and then confront them (with torches and pitchforks in hand, if necessary!)

Talking to someone about their bad behavior is an intimidating prospect for most of us, and that includes me. My biggest fear is that the person is going to angrily claim I’m judging them as a human being and not only reject my attempt to confront as Jesus taught us, but reject me. Having been rejected a fair amount in this life I don’t relish the thought of opening myself up to the possibility of being rejected again.

Still, our Lord’s words stand, and if I want to play my part in getting out of the “offense trap” with a friend, while also helping them to see where change in their lives might be necessary, I must obey those words.

Recently, though, I was pleasantly surprised when I had to do just that. An old friend of ours from outside True Life had told me about another mutual friend’s critical comments about me (dealing with the person who made the critical comments is a whole other story, maybe for another blog). For a number of reasons I felt I needed to tell the first friend that she had done a lot of damage by choosing to be the conduit of the criticism. Her fault here was gossip, and I knew that for our relationship to be restored, and be obedient to God, I had to confront her alone and directly by calling it what it was.

I’d like to say I did that immediately, but I did not. I actually didn’t call her for months until she finally called me. I felt the need to pick up and, now cornered on the telephone, I knew that God wanted me to deal with this issue and deal with it now. So after a conversation about several innocuous other things I expressed my concern about what she had done, using “gossip” by name….and waited for the explosion.

It never came.

Instead she said she was sorry for the damage she had caused and admitted that she sometimes had a problem with gossiping. To say I was relieved was a major understatement. I immediately forgave her and felt like our relationship had been completely restored. I know she did, too.

This was, I’m sad to say, one of the few times I have truly acted in the “Matthew 18” pattern, and it turned out that my fears of angry rejection were completely unfounded.

Does this mean every one-on-one confrontation involving another parties’ wrong will turn out as “picture perfect” as this one did? No, but maybe, just maybe, more will than won’t….something to remember the next time someone sins against you and that “rejection anxiety” flares up.

The bottom line: it would appear that when you do things God’s way things often really do turn out a lot better than you thought they would.

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