GRACE & UNITY ~ 10/20/07

At The Outpost, we talk a lot about Grace.  But I'd like to briefly touch on the role grace plays in the unity of the body of Christ. In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus addresses this issue.

"(v.15) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he hears you, you have gained your brother..."

Here are some questions to routinely ask yourself if (and when) you are faced with a Christian-inflicted would:
1) Were you sinned against, or are you just allowing yourself to be easily offended?
2) Were you sinned against, or were you just more vulnerable than you realized, due to similar wounds from your past that have yet to heal?
3) Were you sinned against, or could it just be a misunderstanding?
4) Were you sinned against, or are you just reacting to a personality difference?

The discernment part of this is you being honest about a situation where you felt slighted or hurt, and evaluating whether or not you were intentionally wronged.  If what wounded you was possibly unintentional, or a recurring personality difference, or someone else with strong opinions that differ from you and yours ~ these are grounds for grace.  These are God-given opportunities to practice "gracing" another.  Here's the spiritual maturity part ~ If you conclude it was anything other than sin, your challenge is choosing to seize the opportunity to grow up, let it go, and move on.  God will supply you with what you need to do this if you ask Him.  BUT ~ if you feel traumatized by a specifically sinful action taken against you and designed to hurt you ~ by a fellow Christian ~ and you are pretending like it doesn't bother you under the guise of "grace," what you are now engaged in is avoidance ~ you are avoiding resolution (and healing, and growth, and unity, and peace...) ~ because it's easier (it is), or because it's safer (usually true), or because you feel like it's not your place (who's place is it?) ~ and if it was clearly sin, by not addressing the problem you are unwittingly enabling that person to continue in a habit of sin, and hindering their own growth ~ and possibly your own.

The rest of Matthew 18 reads ~ "But if [your brother] will not hear (after going to him privately), take with you  one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church... (v.16,17b)"

SO ~ If you have been hurt by a fellow member of our church ~
1) Be honest with yourself and seek discernment from God as to whether what happened was clearly 'sinful' or merely unpleasant.
2) If not clearly a sin ~ I encourage you to take this as an opportunity to grow in maturity, and truly "grace" them ~ give them what they may not deserve ~ the benefit of the doubt ~ and ask God to help you let it go.
3) If you feel that person's actions were specifically sinful and not just a difference of personality or opinion, then go to that person privately, motivated by love, looking for resolution, with the hope that you can make peace.  Don't allow yourself to avoid the problem!
4) If, after privately going to this person, you are ignored or attacked again, if they won't hear you out ~ at that point, take one or two other people as witnesses (like an intervention) and try again to resolve the situation.
5) If even then this person remains defiant and lacks remorse, talk to myself or one of the elders and at that point, we will step in (Gal. 6:1).
6) Finally ~ if you are approached by someone who has felt hurt by you and wants to make you aware of your part in that, don't be defensive!  Try not to see it as an attack!  Instead, even if you don't feel you've done anything wrong intentionally, BE THE STRONGER BROTHER (or sister) and try to patiently work out together what went wrong.

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus... (Rom. 15:5)

Surrounded By Grace,

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*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~