Have you ever been in a situation where you were talking with someone and they misunderstood what you said to them? It can be because you said the wrong thing or because they thought you meant something else. These situations can be funny at times but they can also be really complicated, this can happen even in the church. We have to be careful because sometimes these situations aren’t always able to be cleared up easily. This can lead to disunity and problems in the church. When that happens we need to be able to handle it in a godly way.
There are a couple of things we need to consider when it comes to situations such as this in the church:
First, as humans, we are fallible, making mistakes often. We could easily misinterpret what is being said. I have many experiences of this happening over text messages, but it can just as easily happen in person. We need to be willing and mature enough to go and speak to our brethren in person. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Offering sacrifices on the altar was how the Israelites were to worship God. Jesus is saying before you come and worship God, have a good relationship with your brethren.
Second, it needs to be pointed out that Matthew 5:23-24 is talking to the people in the wrong and telling them they need to fix it but that does not put the responsibility fully on their shoulders. If we don’t talk to the person who has offended us, how will they know they’ve done something wrong? It’s not possible for people to read our mind so that makes it our responsibility to go to our brethren when we are upset.
Third, if someone does come to us and try to make things right we need to listen to what they’re saying. We need to actually pay attention to what they are saying and to their sincerity. The hard part is that no one wants to listen to someone that they’re upset with, but we need to. Remember, if they apologize and we say that they are forgiven when we haven’t forgiven them, then it becomes us who are in the wrong and not them. As Christians, we need to be able to forgive others, especially our brethren.
Now, what comes next is fun for no one. We need to do self-evaluation. Often times we get defensive easily over stuff that we know is wrong but we are doing anyway. Hebrews 10: 26-27 tells us, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Living in continual sins negates Christ’s sacrifice that forgives our sins if we have been baptized. There are multiple passages in which we are told to correct our brethren that are living in sin and to bring them back to Christ. That is part of how we show each other that we love one another. We watch out for each other’s souls, showing that we care about each other’s eternal salvation. This does not happen often in the church though, because of our defensiveness. People are too afraid of “rocking the boat” and having receiving backlash that we don’t do this.
We need to be able to count on our brethren to hold us accountable and help keep us from sin. Sometimes we only notice what others are doing wrong and don’t realize that sin has crept into our life, Luke 6:41. So, when they do come to us we need to handle it in a godly manner by keeping our relationship with them positive, even if what they said about us was unfair, and by honestly considering what they have to say. This is going to keep the church unified and strong. Part of the reason that God gave us the church is so that we have the accountability that is provided. We need to learn to use that to strengthen our relationship with God instead of letting it break our relationships with our brethren. That is going to be more difficult than it sounds, but the Christian life is about challenging ourselves to grow our faith. I challenge you to join me in this. Listen to others when they talk to you about your faith and actions. Consider what they say and if there is a misunderstanding, go to them. Don’t let it fester and produce bad feelings, weakening your relationships. Most importantly if what is said is accurate make the change to better your relationship with God.