Restore Such an One
If you have been a Christian for awhile, you learn that tucked into every corner of the Gospel is Reconciliation. I like this definition from biblestudytools.com: “Reconciliation involves a change in the relationship between God and man or man and man.”
The heart of the Gospel is the reconciliation of man with God. If reconciliation is the heart of the Gospel, the reconciliation of man to man is also paramount.
This week, I have been endlessly barraged with gossip from neighbours. Talking about: “Oh I just found out that Bill, whom I thought was a Christian, was caught up in this heinous sin.” Sin is heinous. So is gossip.
We are going to look at the ministry of reconciliation between man and man.
First lets address the issue of gossip for a moment. Words mean things. Proverbs 11:13 reminds us:
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.
2 Timothy 2:16 (Pastor Dan will get there in a few weeks) says:
But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, (2 Tim 2:16 NASB)
Further, James tell us:
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. (James 3:8 NASB)
Got it? The first step in the reconciliation of man to man involves, shutting your mouth.
Our direction from God is simple.
Even if a man should be detected in some sin, my brothers, the spiritual ones among you should quietly set him back on the right path, not with any feeling of superiority but being yourselves on guard against temptation. (Gal 6:1 JB Phillips)
Gossip does nothing towards restoration, and reconciliation. It can’t. It’s powerless.
The seconds step: Don’t believe all you hear. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.
Jesus reminds us:
“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” (Matt 15:18 NASB)
Be very careful what you say, or how you react. If someone has a juicy tidbit about someone, excuse yourself, and walk away. It’s that simple. Refuse to listen to gossip. Yes it’s hard. But someone’s reputation is at stake.
I will talk about the steps of reconciliation in a few moments.
Reconciliation – changing the relational dynamic, either between God and man, or man and man, involves forgiveness. We want to believe that tasty tidbit of tantalizing tales…but often we fail to see the need to forgive.
Again Jesus reminds us:
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ (Matt 6:12 NASB)
Most likely you have heard this before. It’s taken from the Disciples’ Prayer in Matthew.
Forgive our debts….what debt? Our sin debt:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:23 KJV)
If we expect God to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9-10), we MUST learn to forgive others. Tell me, what sin did Jesus NOT pay in full on Cavalry’s Cross? Past. Present. Future.
Jesus reminds us in Mark 12:
29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NASB)
The fulfillment of the Law….love.
Finally. The prescription for reconciliation:
“15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matt 18:15-17)
The steps then are:
1. Go to that individual and say to him her PRIVATELY – “so and so said this about you, is this true?”
Yeah. Nobody wants to do this step. When I heard the juicy tidbits from my neighbours, I immediately went to him and asked: “Is this true?” It is hard, but this is the first step towards restoration. How many of us choose to believe half truths, without ever going privately to the individual first? Oh? Did you remember that we are NOT to repeat anything outside of this conversation? Privately. Not publicly.
2. If the private conversation does not work, we proceed to step 2. We confirm things in the presence of other witnesses.
3. Step 3…if that does not work – tell it to the church.
4. Treat him as a tax collector and a gentile. In other words shun this person.
But look at the steps closely. We want to go to step 4 and shun this person, rather than going first privately to the individual.
If we claim the name of Christ as our Saviour…we MUST also be involved in the ministry of reconciliation. Our priority is always: “How do I let God use me to change the relationship of this person to God, or how do I change my relationship to someone else? Relationships are at times difficult.
As I went to this person in absolute humility, I said: “Is this rumour about you that is going around true? I began to weep. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Because God had been kicked in the gut. He said: “Some of it is true, some of it is fabricated.” (Made up). Again the truth always seems to lie somewhere in the middle. I choose to forgive this person. I told him:
“Brother, I want you to know that I’m committed to you. You’ll never knowingly suffer at my hands. I”ll never say or do anything, knowingly, to hurt your. I’ll always in every circumstance seek to help you and support you. If you’re down and I can lift you up, I’ll do that. Anything I have that your need, I’ll share with you, and if need be, I’ll give it to you. No matter what I find out about you and no matter what happens in the future, either good or bad, my commitment to your will never change. And there’s nothing your can do about it. You don’t have to respond. I love you, and that’s what that means.”
Jerry S. Cook Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness, (Ventura CA: Regal Books, 1979) p. 13