Summary: When someone sins against us, we’re to talk first, then take others, then tell it to church, then treat as an unbeliever. But goal is always restoration.
What to Do When Someone Sins Against You
Rev. Brian Bill
One Sunday morning a wife tried to wake her husband up for church. He kept his eyes closed and said, “I don’t want to go to church; they don’t like me there.” She tried again, this time pleading with him to get out of bed, reminding him that some of the people did like him. Pulling his covers over his head, he replied, “No matter how hard I try, they keep making fun of me. On top of that, the sermons are focusing on conflict resolution. I don’t really want to think about that stuff.” Finally, she decided to practice some tough love. She whipped the covers off, raised her voice, and said, “You don’t have a choice. Get out of bed right now and get dressed…you’re the pastor.”
Maybe you’re still sleepy from all the tryptophan in your Thanksgiving turkey, or maybe you’re in tension with someone you’d like to call a turkey today. Perhaps it’s hard to come to church and hear that making peace is possible because you uncorked some more conflict over the last couple days. This is one of those topics that is difficult to preach on for at least two reasons. First, I know that some of you are in conflict. And second, I create enough of my own. Last Sunday morning I asked Beth if I had done anything to hurt her because I knew I couldn’t get up and preach on peace if we were out of sorts. She hesitated, I braced myself…and then she said we were good to go.
Did you hear about the industrious turkey farmer who experimented with breeding to perfect a better turkey? Everyone in his family liked the turkey legs but there were never enough to go around. After many frustrating attempts, he finally figured it out. The farmer was relating the results of his efforts at the local gas station one day. “Well I finally did it! I figured out how to get a turkey that has 6 legs!” His buddies were amazed and asked him how it tasted. The farmer replied, “I don’t know. I could never catch that thing!”
I hope you’ve been catching how to biblically handle conflict during this short series. Let me summarize where we’ve been:
• Every Conflict is an Opportunity
• Get the Log out of Your Eye
• What to do When Someone’s Mad at You
Our topic today is “What to Do When Someone Sins against You” from Matthew 18:15-17. It’s been my observation that this passage is often over-quoted and under-used. Some people consider it like a code when they say, “I’m going to ‘Matthew 18’ that person.” It’s my desire that when we’re done today we’ll be motivated to not just quote it but to actually utilize what it says. Let’s read it together: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he 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 he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Before a plane takes off, a pilot conducts a “pre-flight” checklist. I’d like to suggest the following “pre-fight” checklist that can help us avoid a bumpy relational ride and keep us from crashing from our conflict.
o Am I treating the other person as one of God’s treasures? Let’s set this text in context. In verses 1-5, we’re told to be welcoming to children, and to even become like them. In verses 6-9, we’re challenged to not lead anyone into sin. In verses 10-14, Jesus reminds us that the Good Shepherd does not want any of His little lambs to be lost. Verse 15 uses the word “brother” twice which indicates that God does not want friction in his family and that He wants conflict dealt with among spiritual siblings. A good example of this is found in Genesis 13:8 when Abraham does some conflict resolution with his nephew Lot: “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.”
o Check to make sure my goal is reconciliation not retaliation. Right after this passage, we see in verses 21-35 that we must be willing to forgive “seventy times seven times” when someone sins against us. I must make sure my attitude is right so that I don’t fight or use my might. The goal is always reconciliation and restoration. James 5:19-20 reminds us that we are to bring back the one who is wandering and our aim is to turn the “sinner from the error of his way…”