Good Shepherd Lutheran

Real Forgiveness Matthew 18:15-20
In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus talks directly to His followers to tell them what fellowship should look like. If a brother or sister in the faith hurts you, angers you, or does you wrong in some way, you should go and talk to them about it directly, one on one.
Not only does working things out this way lead to forgiveness. It also accomplishes it in a graceful way. When I say graceful, I mean that it’s full of God’s grace. The offended party isn’t dragging the offender through the mud. If it gets worked out there, no one else needs to know. In that way forgiveness is available without fear of embarrassment. It can be done quietly. Lovingly. Gracefully. But if that doesn’t work, then Matthew says you should bring another person or two with you to help mediate the situation. This raises the stakes, but it still provides for grace with discretion.
But if everything else fails. If things can’t be worked out among the individuals. Then as a last resort you bring it to the whole church so it can be aired out and wounds healed.
A church can be totally undone by backbiting and whisper campaigns. When that happens, the church ceases to be a place of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. You might say that it really ceases to be a church.
What Matthew says about handling disagreements is the model for true Christianity. But all too often, instead of following Matthew’s instructions, we find ourselves engaging in ‘Passive-Aggressive Christianity’.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s the kind of behavior we see on the internet, or at the Saturday morning gossip fest at the local coffee shop. If a member of the church sins against us, then we just talk about them behind their back. Or if another member of the church hurts us, then we just call a bunch of people in the church to complain about them. Maybe we even start a letter-writing campaign against them. Or send them a nasty email. And then we send a copy anonymously to the pastor. And, while we’re at it, maybe forward it to the bishop.
Or sometimes if another member of the church sins against us, we just don’t say anything at all. Instead, we simply avoid them. We un-friend them on Facebook. And, if we can’t avoid them on Sundays, then too often we just stop going to church, hoping they’ll find someplace else to worship so we can get back to our church home.
All that sounds extreme and maybe even unrealistic, but it’s surprising how often it really happens. A grudge seems to take on a life of its own when we fail to stop and evaluate our actions in light of Biblical teaching.
Forgiveness is meant to be at the core of who we are. If we can’t even manage that between ourselves in the church, how can we ever become agents of reconciliation in the world?