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Bible verses about Offenses, Dealing with
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 18:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Matthew 18:15 instructs us to deal honestly with a brother over an offense, and not to tell it to others. This is also a great challenge. When irritated or offended, the first thing we want to do is to talk about it! We want to receive encouragement, comfort, understanding, or just get it off our chests. It is critical, though, for us to temper our honesty with the loving attributes of God's Spirit, and solve our differences with words that heal, encourage, and enable greater affection to grow. Honesty may at times require forgiveness and forbearance that neglect and lying might let slide by.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

Matthew 18:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Mark well that Jesus says, "If your brother sins against you. . . ." The Greek word for "sins" is hamartano, which can also be translated as "trespass," "commit a fault," or "offend."

Hamartano can also imply the making of a mistake, and this is important to note. The offense might be the result of an innocent mistake by the offender—or the offended person might be mistaken in feeling offended. The discovery of a mistake or misunderstanding by either party can come out in Step Number One, the private communication between the offending and the offended parties.

Please notice that Jesus wants us to resolve such problems at the simplest possible level, if at all possible, before taking it to other people and definitely before taking it to the ministry. It should almost go without saying that we must pray about it in advance. If it is a major problem, we might also want to fast about it in order to draw close to God.

But what if the offender will not discuss the problem in a reasonable manner? What if he will not admit that he has done anything offensive? And worst case, what if he "blows a gasket" and yells at us for even bringing it to him—even in this proper, Christ-sanctioned way?

Then we must go on to the next step (Matthew 18:16).

Staff
Islands and Offenses


 

Matthew 18:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus quotes this principle of appropriate judgment from Deuteronomy 19:15.

How do we go about this? We find another church member, or two if necessary, and we ask them to become involved. They should be members who are not gossip-mongers and whose word is reliable. An unbiased person is best in many ways. However, on the other hand, it is wise to have a person who to some extent agrees about the offense. Perhaps he has been offended in a similar way by the same offender in the past.

This is where it can become tricky. Be very careful! Do not be hasty! It should not be our intention to start a war over this. Nor do we want to split the "protective island" of our congregation into two opposing camps. Neither do we want to be accused of gossip.

At the very beginning of the first step, we should have advised the offender that we were bringing this to him in accordance with Jesus' instructions in Matthew 18. If Step Number One does not work, then we should tell him again that, according to Jesus' command, we need to take it to Step Number Two, and that we wish to involve another person or persons. Be gentle! Be diplomatic!

Now, what if the offender refuses to resolve the problem even when we, the offended, are backed by our "two witnesses"? That is when we must involve "the church." (Matthew 18:17)

Staff
Islands and Offenses


 

Matthew 18:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Does this mean that we are then free to go to all the other church members and tell them all of the offender's infraction? No, of course not! Doing such a thing would likely precipitate an unpleasant and unnecessary split in the congregation.

It is interesting to note that, at the time that Jesus gave these instructions to the disciples, the church per se did not yet exist! His disciples were, of course, the nucleus of His future church. Yet, even they sometimes had jealousies and disagreements between themselves—yes, even after the coming of the Holy Spirit. We see a few examples of these disagreements in the gospel accounts and the epistles.

The idea that Jesus is getting at here anticipates the establishment of His church and its leadership. It is to that leadership—the church ministry—that the offended person is to go in the event of the failure of Step Number Two.

So Step Number Three is the appropriate time for the ministry to become involved. Again, we must avoid the temptation to jump the gun by trying to involve the ministry before we have completed the first two steps.

Moreover, we should not use the involvement of the ministry as a threat! Doing so will almost certainly inflame the problem. It is vital that we also understand that there are no absolute guarantees that the involvement of the ministry will definitely resolve the problem. Jesus' words in the second half of verse 17 show this possibility clearly. The offending member might not recognize the authority or experience of the minister who is brought in to intervene, or he may adamantly refuse to admit that he did anything wrong. Whatever the reason, there is still the possibility that Step Number Three might also fail. If it does, then we go on to Step Number Four.

Continuing in verse 17, Jesus says finally, "But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

If the problem gets this far, and assuming from the beginning that our case is a fair and valid one, we are within our rights at this point to treat the offender as the Jews of Jesus' time would have treated the most despised people, both of their own people (the tax collectors) and of the Gentiles (the heathen).

Jesus implies that, if negotiations fail even after the involvement of "the church" (the ministry), then the offender's unwillingness might cause him to be officially treated henceforth by the church and its leadership as a non-member—maybe even to the point of disfellowshipment or even marking. The apostle Paul comments on this in Romans 16:17-18:

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

Paul says here that the church leadership is to "note" those who cause offenses. In the King James Version, the term "note those" is given as "mark those." Paul is telling church leaders to mark or name before the church, those who cause division or offense.

"Marking" is the extreme form of disfellowshipment from the church. If a person is disfellowshipped, it is done privately. But if he is "marked," he has done something so serious that it must be announced to the entire congregation. This illustrates what a serious sin the giving of offense can be if not properly resolved.

Staff
Islands and Offenses


 

1 Corinthians 10:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that the apostle Paul is writing to church members, advising them not to offend fellow church members!

And what did Jesus say on the subject?

Then [in the end time] they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. (Matthew 24:9-10)

He tells us of a future time when people will offend each other—to the point of betrayal! What else does our Savior tell us about offenses?

Then He said to the disciples, "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." (Luke 17:1-2)

Who are "these little ones"? Usually, this term would refer to children and to the newer members and attendees of God's church. But the term might also refer to those who perhaps tend to be a little more sensitive than most.

So, if Jesus says that it is impossible that no offenses should come, then how should we handle those offenses when they do come?

Keep in mind that, no matter which side of the fence we are on—whether we are the offended or the offender—it will not be easy. Solomon writes in Proverbs 18:19, "A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle."

What should we do if a fellow church member offends us? Should we immediately go running to the local minister and demand that the offender be disfellowshipped? Of course not! Instead, we are to use Jesus Christ's four-step plan, which He gives us in Matthew 18:15-17.

Certainly, this may not be the most pleasant way of resolving the problem. It would be much easier to just give it to the minister and let him resolve it. But this is the method that Jesus commands His brothers and sisters to use.

Staff
Islands and Offenses


 

 




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