Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Matthew 18

I had quite an experience Monday morning on the way to work. It was 7 o'clock and I was driving the kids to the baby sitter's house. We live in a small town, and at that hour of the morning it is still dark, and many of the streets are not very well lit. Like the one I was on when I heard Nathan dump his bag over in the backseat and turned around to see how big the mess was. When I looked back up at the road, I realized that I had drifted to the left a bit, and just as quickly realized that there was a jogger right in my headlights. I pulled the wheel to the right and avoided hitting a man who was jogging in dark clothes with no reflector or flashlight.

I counted myself lucky that I didn't hit him, and continued on to Heather's house. After I dropped the kids off and was driving out of the subdivision, I saw the jogger running directly at my Tahoe and I had to come to a complete stop to avoid hitting him. I rolled my window down to apologize for the near miss, but before I could form a sentence he spewed out the most vile words and names at me. He accused me of doing it on purpose, and called me several names that I have never been called in my life.

As he started to jog off, I realized that this man attended church with me. This man, his wife and little girl (who is in Nathan's Sunday School class). I was so shocked by his abusive language, that I felt I had to plead my case with him, so I turned the Tahoe around and caught back up with him. I tried again to reason with him and apologize, but he just repeated the vulgarities again and again. He said that I was the same person that tried to run him over the day before in a gold truck, and that he was going to call the police. I encouraged him to do just that, if for no other reason than to prove that I was not the person he thought I was.

I finally realized that he was not going to be reasonable, and so I apologized one more time and wished him a blessed day. As I drove off, I was shaking and called Trevor to tell him what happened. Right after I hung up with him, my sitter called me and said that the jogger (who knows her) had come by her house to find out who had just dropped their kids off. He had jogged by the house of the person who had actually tried to run him down, and both the Tahoe and gold truck were sitting in the driveway. When he realized what he had done and who I was, he was completely and totally embarrassed by his behavior.

He left a letter of apology for me, and although it seemed genuine, it disturbed me that (as someone who claims to be a Christian), he would talk to anyone like that. After studying the scripture, Trevor decided that he needed to have a conversation with him to clear the air. By insulting me, he had also insulted Trevor. As the spiritual leader of our household, he felt that he had responsibility to determine if this man was repentant and to counsel him as a Christian brother.

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

The man was receptive to Trevor, and all was forgiven. We all make mistakes. We all stumble and do things for which we are incredibly ashamed. What really matters is how we handle ourselves after the fact. Do we become defensive and try to shift the blame to someone else or our circumstances? Do we shut out loving Christian counsel to spare ourselves the "indignity" of being called out for our sinful behavior? Or do we submit to one another in love, and repent of our sin?

I am certainly not saying that it is easy to confront our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It can be a delicate matter indeed, but if we are to be true to the gospel, we must encourage and exhort each other regarding sinful behaviors. Our society tells us "judge not lest ye be judged", but that does not apply to the church. We are not to judge the world...but we are clearly called to hold one another accountable so that the church (and by extension, Christ) does not receive a bad name. This is not judgement...this is loving counsel and it is necessary and useful to the health of the church.

For even if I made you sorry with my letter (counsel), I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle (counsel) made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Therefore, although I wrote to (counseled with) you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you. 2 Corinthians 7:8-12

My brother said something that made a great deal of sense to me. Apologies are for non-Christians. Repentance is for believers. If all we are doing is apologizing for our sin and then doing it again and again, we accomplish nothing. True peace and joy comes from repenting and turning away from that sin. Does this mean that we will never commit that sin again? In some cases, yes. In others, no...we will still stumble sometimes, but forgiveness is just a prayer away.


Rhonda said...

Wow! What a morning. It's difficult to let people's words just slide off. (Really shows how powerful spoken words are.)

I'm so glad that you have such a wonderful husband to protect you and follow through.

I was curious about one thing while reading this. I was wondering where Jogger is at spiritually. Of course you wouldn't know that. I think that perhaps Jogger has some healing to do with his anger. I don't say this judgmentally. I say this knowing that God can heal and Jogger can live a life of wholeness.

It sounds as though Jogger goes to church and says he believes in God, but has maybe not experienced the fullness that is available to him.

Perhaps, through this experience, a door will open for maybe Jogger & your husband (or someone else) so that Jogger can be accountable and receive the healing that he needs.


Mocha with Linda said...

I'm so glad that he did not turn violent that morning and that Trevor went to him and handled it. What a wonderful example of applying Biblical concepts.

Andrea said...

I was thrilled to read about how your hubby wanted to take care of you and make sure the situation was taken care of. What a wonderful man you have protecting you!!