I am not easy to get along with. My closest girlfriends and my mother may disagree, but I have offended more people in this life of mine than, well, probably than you have in yours. I’m not one of those people that everybody loves. And I’m not one of those people who’s never met a stranger, or however that saying goes. I’m an octagon of rough edges.
So there is a passage in Scripture that is the bane of my existence and yet I have practically set up shop in. Matthew 18. In fact, I used to do this so often, being on staff at a church and offending people left and right, that I turned it into a verb; as in, “I have to Matthew 18 Joe…” or “I just got Matthew 18’d again…”
Let me refresh your memory in case you’re one of those people who has never had this joy-filled experience:
Verses 15-17 (Message) say, “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.”
Yep, good times.
Well, I had to Matthew 18 someone this week and I was dreading it with a capital D. I had no desire to do this but I knew I had to…I knew almost immediately that I had to confront this person. It didn’t help that this person and I haven’t had the easiest of relationships for several years now. But this person, who is a fellow believer, hurt me, so according to Matthew 18, I had to go and talk about it and attempt to work the thing out. Yuck. Sometimes the Bible just makes me mad. In fact, I was so mad that I told this verse to a friend who was praying me up and said, “But I don’t want to end up friends!” You know, because I’m a ten-year-old.
So I went. I did the thing. I told this person very specifically how I was hurt. And not only did I not get an apology, but I got justified actions tossed my way. Excellent. Now what, I’m thinking. Well, I’ve Matthew 18’d enough to know that it’s not about the results, that God holds the results. So we talked a little bit more, went a bit deeper, and then this person blew me away.
“You’ve held me at arm’s length for years. You’ve shown me no respect, no love. I’ve leaned into your family and tried to love them and you have rebuffed all my attempts. I cannot win with you.”
Whoa. Now we’re talkin’.
With tears in my eyes, I replied, “First of all, thank you so much for your vulnerability. Secondly, you’re right. I have not shown you the respect you deserve. You have not done anything to deserve my unkindness and disrespect, and I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” And with tears looking back at me, I was offered forgiveness.
Keep in mind, I went in for one entirely different objective, and came out healed. Funny what happens when you bother obeying God. In case you’re wondering, He totally surprises you, like maybe even with a new friend.