Church Handbook

Appendix 2: Dealing with Sins and Offenses

Appendix 2: Dealing with sins and offenses (Matthew 18:15-35) 

How do we handle things when someone sins against us or we think they have? This is very important because if we do it wrong it brings strife and opens the door to satan.

(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. 

 If someone comes to us directly over an issue we should hear them with an open mind. It may be hard to take, and they may have misunderstood us, but we should be glad they are doing that rather than talking behind our backs. If they speak to us alone they are walking in the light, but talking behind our backs is to operate in the darkness where satan can have a field day. They are giving us a chance to put things right privately. 
 
 What should we do instead of gossip? 
(1) Forgive. 
(2) Pray for the person you think is in sin (1John 5:16), for it is hard to keep a bad attitude toward someone for whom you are praying. 
(3) Speak to them, if the Lord leads - after doing (1) and (2).

 
 
 (3) If it is still not resolved, we can then take it further: “But if he does not hear you, take with you one or two more, that from the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the Church (it then becomes a matter of Church discipline) and if he refuses to hear the Church also, let him be to you as the Gentile and the publican (now as he is acting as an unbeliever, he should be counted as one).”
 
 It is important that we keep strife out, for unity is the key to blessing and answered prayer: “Verily I say unto you, whatever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together (united) 
in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (v18-20).
 
 The Greatest key to keeping satan out is FORGIVENESS. 
“Then came Peter and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not unto you, ‘Until seven times; but, until seventy times seven’” (v21-22). 61.
 Unforgiveness seems to be the most serious sin resulting in un-answered prayer, with out sins coming back upon us causing torment: “If you forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you forgive not men their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14,15; Mark 11:25). 
 
 Jesus continues by illustrating this in a parable: 
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king (a picture of God), who would make a reckoning with his servants (these represent us). And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, who owed him 10,000 talents (a huge debt of millions of pounds, like our debt of sin that we owe God). But because he had no way to pay (we cannot earn our forgiveness by paying for our sins)his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made (if we had to pay for our sins, it would mean endless punishment and slavery for us).  
 
The servant therefore fell down and worshiped him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you back all’ (this would be impossible however). And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt (God, through Christ, graciously forgave us of all our massive debt of sin).  One of the best helps for us to forgive others and not to hold onto grudges and offenses is to realise our own imperfections, weaknesses and sins and how much we need forgiveness and how much God has forgiven us, so how dare we refuse to forgive others!
 
 But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred shillings (a small sum of a few pounds, representing the debt someone owes us when they sin against us); and he laid hold of him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay what you owe me’ (he demands justice). So his fellow-servant fell down and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Having patience with me, and I will pay you.’ And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due (this is like people who refuse to forgive others even though they have been forgiven by God of so much more). 

 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.

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