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Simply Church: Dealing With Each Others’ Sin

We established that in the New Covenant Family we all still sin, this sin destroys the family, and our older brother, father, and their spirits are bringing us out of this sin. But we, as brothers and sisters, also have to deal with the sin of one another. Handling the sin of a brother against a brother is one of the most difficult parts of being a family. We do damage to our siblings. It’s intolerable that the family of God would do this, but it’s also inevitable.

It’s difficult to be a family. We hurt each other. Like our sin, this should never happen and it is bound to happen. We wrong each other in so many ways. We gossip with other family members. We lie to each other. We speak derogatory words to one another. We point out flaws in painful ways. We ostracize. We condemn. We judge. We ignore. We refuse to listen. We envy. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time. We’re all sinners (that’s who Jesus came to call after all). Sinners hurt people when they interact with them.

When we are sinned against, Jesus tells us, as a family, there is only one way to handle it:

“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against your seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17)

These words are wonderful and frustrating. All of the actions of these two sentences are difficult (more on this difficulty can be found here).

It is often difficult to tell someone how we have been wronged by them because we have to admit that in some way our dignity was dishonored. We have to acknowledge that we were treated in a way that is embarrassing because we weren’t valued. Humility is required to admit we have been hurt. It is scary that our brother won’t acknowledge his/her involvement in this devaluing of our personhood because this affirms (wrongly) that dishonor is simply the way we should be treated. Rebuking someone about how they’ve wronged us is simply an uncomfortable thing to do. There are a number of things that make rebuking someone for their sin difficult, but it has to be done in a proper functioning family.

And then, the next part of this process is the person who sinned admitting their sin, being contrite for it, and turning from it back into right relationship. Who wants to admit they’ve done wrong? What if what we did wasn’t even technically wrong, it was just ignorant actions that unintentionally hurt?* As the person rebuking needs humility, the person repenting needs humility in relation to their siblings to, in a sense, put themselves below their sister in their request for their sister’s forgiveness. We need something from them because we want reconciliation with them.

Forgiveness is obviously most often the most difficult of all of these steps. Jesus’ words that we have to, essentially, always forgive a repentant brother or sister are especially difficult. At least for me, the reason it sucks so bad to forgive is simple and obvious, “They hurt me and they don’t deserve my forgiveness!” The exact reasons someone needs forgiveness are the exact reasons I don’t want to give it to them. When we forgive, we have to release the other of the wrong they did to us. The reconciliation of the relationship depends on us and we have to, in a sense, absorb the sin (I explain this quite poorly here). Forgiving is difficult, but absolutely necessary for our family to be a family.

Our older brother Jesus, a master of forgiveness and reconciliation, makes some pretty bold statements about these things. He claims that reconciling with our brother is more important than sacrifice for or going to a worship service for our Father. It doesn’t even make sense in our family to worship God our Father or make sacrifices to Him if we haven’t done everything in our power to make things right in our relationships with our brothers and sisters.

Jesus also says something surprising and frustrating about forgiving our siblings: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6). Pretty clear stuff. Unforgiveness makes no sense in this family because this family was started by the greatest act of forgiveness the world has ever seen. Our family began with forgiveness that allowed us to be reconciled with our Father and it continues with forgiveness that keeps us in intimate relationship with both our Father and our siblings. The only thing more unacceptable than sin in this family is refusing to forgive after all we have been forgiven.

Sometimes there is sin that is not directly against another person. Our goal in dealing sin like this is the same as our goal in everything else, how do we handle this like Dad would handle this? How do we handle this like our older brother would handle this? We do what families do, we love eachother. We give the sinner what they need. If it’s forgiveness, we offer it. If it’s a reminder of Dad’s love, we speak it. If it’s admonishment, we admonish. If it’s an embrace, we embrace. If it’s just to be there, then we just be there. We do whatever it is we have to do in order to love that person the way the Father loves them, all the while, with words and actions, pointing to the Father and our older brother.

*I’ve probably done this to you. And I’m so incredibly sorry. Help me change!

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