Lessons in Discipleship (18) دروس في التلمذة

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LID#18 – Reconciliation Part II


          This is Dr. Ed Hoskins welcoming you to Lessons in Discipleship, a series designed to help new believers become established in their Christian faith.  Today’s session is: Reconciliation Part 2 – When Another Person has Offended Me. 


          First, let me tell you a little about myself.  I am a retired physician and spent 34 years in family medicine and student health.  I became a Christian 50 years ago and was helped early in my faith by the Navigators, a non-denominational international Christian organization whose stated goal is “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.”  I have been on associate staff with that organization since 1980.  Lessons in Discipleship is a compilation of what I learned from the Bible and under the direction of the Navigators during that time.  What I learned then I now pass on to you.  Today’s session is on Reconciliation Part 2 – When Another Person has Offended Me. 


          In our last session, we discussed Part 1: how reconciliation should proceed when I have offended another individual.  In today’s session we cover Part 2: how to pursue reconciliation when I am the person who has been offended. 


          Our goal in both parts 1 and 2 is to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men.”  (Hebrews 12:14)


          In Part 2 we face some unusual problems that differ from Part 1. This is best illustrated by additional verses from that same passage in Hebrews 12.  “Make every effort to live at peace with all men and to be holy.  Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  See that no one is sexually immoral, or godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.” (Hebrews 12:14-16) 


          In this passage we see a four-step process in a relational deterioration between Jacob and Esau, both sons of Isaac.  It all started with an unknown offense between Jacob and Esau which had not been reconciled.  Actually, in the Bible, we think we know what that offense was, when Jacob stole the birthright of Esau when Esau came home hungry and wanted some of the food Jacob had been fixing.  Well, the first step in that four-step process was the initial offense.  Because it was not reconciled it proceeded to step 2.  On the part of Esau it led to a root of bitterness.  In step 3 the problem grew into more trouble.  This eventually led to step 4 which resulted in many others being defiled. 


          I’d like to tell you a story about Milt.  It happened in my own life many years ago when I was a young believer.  Milt was a Christian leader who had newly moved to town.  I was supposed to receive spiritual help and guidance from him.  Well, from the beginning of our relationship I was really bothered by some aspects of his lifestyle – especially in the choice of movies he watched.  I did not think they were appropriate for a Christian to watch.  His personal convictions were not on the same level as mine.   Instead of going directly to Milt to discuss it openly with him, I let my disapproval simmer.  Like Esau’s problem, it began to grow.  Later, another young believer, a different person, came to talk to me about a problem he was also having with Milt.   He asked for my advice.  You know, I had a wonderful opportunity at that point to interrupt this four step process above.  I could have stopped it, but I chose not to.  What I said to this second person was, “I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You know I have a problem with Milt too.  Let’s just wait and see what happens.” Again, I missed this opportunity of interrupting this process.  Later, both Milt and this other individual wound up being spiritually defiled.  Milt left the Christian faith and the other person got divorced.  I will never know how much my failure to follow God’s correct plan for reconciliation negatively influenced both of these individuals.  So what should I have done to help interrupt this 4-step process? 


          First, I should have immediately gone to Milt directly and discussed my difference of opinion about movies with him.  Second, I should never have continued to listen to another believer complaining about a Christian without saying, “Wait a minute.  Have you discussed this problem of yours directly with Milt?  If not, according to the Bible you should not be talking to me about it.  You must go first and talk it over directly with Milt.”


          We often get a clue that this is taking place whenever we hear another believer making negative comments, complaining about a second believer.  When we hear that, we need to stop that person immediately and have them go directly to that other person.  That would have interrupted the process.  It’s possible, even likely, that everything started with a simple misunderstanding.  But it expanded into something evil where many others were defiled.


          From Hebrews 12 our responsibility is to go and make things right. 


          Well, this brings up another tricky problem.  How do we approach another person with something negative that they may have done or may be doing?  Here is a suggestion I learned 40 years ago from an older Christian.  First, go to this other person on the basis of love.  Make sure to check my own heart first.  Second, go on the basis of God’s word.  Third,  go to them on the basis of impressions – not accusations.  In other words, instead of saying, “I saw you did this!” consider saying, “From what I heard you say or do, the impression I got is that you may be …” – or, “Is that the impression you were trying to create?”  Often that question alone allows the other person to rethink what they’re doing and self-correct.  It’s more gentle.  It allows them to restate their thoughts or even change their actions in a nonthreatening process. The problem may be solved right there.


          So what’s the most important procedure if we have been offended by another person?  First, don’t talk about this with anyone else (other than God) until we go directly and talk first to the person who offended us.  Again, we approach that person on the basis of love, on the basis of God’s word, and on the basis of using impressions.  That’s a much more gentle approach.  Second, we don’t gossip or spread unkind things about other people, especially about other believers.  Whenever we are involved in spreading gossip, the Bible actually calls that the sin of slander.  Whenever we listen to gossip, we have an opportunity to interrupt this negative process that defiles many others.


          Our ultimate goal in relational difficulties is reconciliation and  restoration to the glory of God.  Finally, we pray – first, last, and always for God to intervene and rescue.  Also, if needed, we apologize and make right any error we have been involved in personally.


          Here are a few additional thoughts.  A fascinating aspect of reconciliation is that it deals with the concept of forgiveness. 

In Matthew chapter 6.  Jesus speaks to this directly in the Sermon on the Mount in the Lord’s Prayer.  He said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)  Two verses later, Jesus reminds us about the importance of forgiveness: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)  That’s a very serious comment with potentially eternal consequences.  Jesus said we are in danger of not having our own sins forgiven if we fail to forgive others. 

          Here’s another thought on that.  Sandwiched between Matthew 6:12 and Matthew 6:14-15 is a powerful verse that says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)  It appears that lack of forgiveness means that we can allow demonic oppression and Satan to get an opportunity for a stronghold in our lives. 


          Here are a few more questions.  Why is forgiving others so hard to do?  And why does failing to forgive others lead to demonic strongholds in our own lives?  I think a better question might be, “What do we do with the pain?”  That fits directly with Hebrews 12:15 and what happened with Esau, who missed the grace of God and a root of bitterness grew up and defiled many. 


          Here’s a disappointing experience of mine.  I was 16 years old and deer hunting with my family.  I shot a deer and I was preparing to go up and tag it.  It was my first buck.  Well, my dad had some deer hunting buddies who’d come along with us.  They thought they had shot the deer and that I had not shot it.  They ran up to the deer and arrived before we got there.   They started cleaning it out and they tagged the deer.  Here I am a 16 year old boy hoping to kill my first deer but I was devastated emotionally.  I was not a believer at the time. 

I was angry and I didn’t know what to do.  I cried like a baby.  My father didn’t know what to do either.   My father checked more and was positive I was the actual one who shot the deer.  His hunting friends, it turned out, were firing at a  completely different hillside and deer.  But they never apologized for that.  And what hit me on a modern day application was that, because it was never resolved, I would always remember it and keep talking about it.  It became kind of a ‘funny’ family story.  I thought it was funny.  But what happened was that we actually met this other person, my father’s hunting buddy, at a basketball game years later.   My son, who was now a teenager, saw him and said very loud, “Is that the fellow who stole your deer?”  I realized then that this four step process was happening and that many were being defiled, including my own son. 

          It was my move and I needed to make it right.  At that point I went home and confessed to God that I had never really forgiven this person.  Even though I was not able to take care of it with that person on an individual basis, in my own heart I forgave that person and decided to never again talk about the ‘funny’ story. 

          How about you?  Are there people or groups that God wants you to forgive?  God wants to demolish these evil strongholds.  I can remember living in Lebanon and we talked to people who had great bitterness about events that had happened 60 years before.  These sad stories began spreading into the next, younger generation resulting in even more bitterness.  Christ wants to demolish these strongholds.  Christ demands that we surrender these burdens to him. They are too heavy for us to carry. 


          Let’s summarize what we’ve learned in this brief presentation. 

First, damaged relationships sometimes occur.  If not handled correctly, roots of bitterness in ourselves and others can grow and end up defiling many others.  If responded to correctly, reconciliation and restored relationships will bring glory to God and offer others much needed freedom.  If done correctly, true peace among brothers and sisters in Christ can flourish.  Finally, an outgrowth of reconciliation is forgiveness.  Failure to forgive others causes our own sins not to be forgiven.  That leads to demonic oppression in our lives and can have eternal consequences.  That burden is too great to carry. 


          We will see you next time when we cover lesson 19 of Lessons in Discipleship when our topic will be “Humility, the Opposite of Pride.”  Well, that wraps up today’s presentation.  Thanks for being a part.  Until we see you next time keep, following Jesus.  He is worth it! 

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