Appendix 2: Dealing with sins and offenses (Matthew 18:15-35)
(1) We bring it to God and forgive as Christ freely forgave us.
(2) If it’s not something we can just forgive and let go:
“If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him ALONE: if he hear you, you have gained your brother”(v15).
If we have to talk about it, we must have the courage to go to the person concerned (and him alone) and discuss it. This gives them the chance to give us their side or to explain it if it is misunderstanding. If instead we do the easy thing and go and discuss their sin with someone else to get it off our chest, we are now sinning. This is the one thing we must not do because it brings strife. Such gossip means we have pre-judged them without a hearing. We have assumed the worst of them. This sin of judgement distorts our spiritual vision and it is greater than the original sin as a beam is greater than a speck.
“Judge not lest you be not judged. For with whatever judgement you judge, you shall be judged: and with whatever measure you mete, it shall be measured unto you. And why do you look at the speck (sin) that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam (sin of judgement) that is in you own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, ‘Let me cast out the speck of your eye; and lo, the beam is in your own eye?’ You hypocrite, cast first the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-4).
One can feel righteous judging another's sins and so can be easily deceived into thinking its O.K. Christians often frown on fleshly sins but are deceived about more serious spiritual sins like gossip and pride. Sharing our criticism with another infects them with our offense, causing them to unfairly judge the person concerned. Thus satan uses us to bring others into sin (Hebrews 12:15).
Now they are responsible too because they should tell any gossip to be quiet and go talk to the person himself. However people usually don’t have the courage to do this and so they bend a sympathetic ear and receive the offense as if it were the whole truth.
So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him to him, and said to him: ‘You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me, should you not also have had mercy on your fellow-servant,
even as I had mercy on you?’ (God expects us to forgive and show mercy even as He forgave us, and He takes it seriously if we don’t).
And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due.
So shall also my heavenly Father do to you, if you do not forgive every one his brother from your hearts” (v23-35). When we don’t forgive others, our own sins weigh down upon us along with their guilt and torment. We come more under the power of the flesh and sin and our spiritual life goes down hill. We come under mental anxiety and depression. Unforgiveness puts us in a spiritual prison of our own making and deserving. The only way out of prison is to forgive.
Some have trouble forgiving, because they think that otherwise ‘he gets away with it’. But nobody gets away with sin for God sees all. Sin causes Christians to lose eternal rewards as well as present blessings and opportunities, for God’s blessing is only found in God’s will. Therefore we are to pray for those who go astray. Forgiveness means that you let God be their Judge for: “Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord.” You are not the judge, and it is not for you to pass sentence. Moreover, sinful behaviour affects a person’s credibility and reputation, for it takes time to (re)build trust, even after forgiveness. It is only possible to ‘forget’ as well as forgive, when there is true contrition and repentance. Therefore they will pay a price for their sin, but if you refuse to forgive you will pay a greater price for your greater sin (as a log is greater than a speck).
To forgive is not to pretend it was OK or it did not happen. It does not mean you should be a doormat and just put up with it, nor that you should not confront the sin; although it does mean you should do it in a loving, reasonable, gentle way (not making it a vengeful personal attack) because you have made sure your heart is right first.