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. (Matthew 18:15)
Do you know what strikes me the most from this passage? The extreme obsession with 'pursuing' forgiveness and restoration. Let's get honest here - we rarely "go after" forgiveness like it was something to be pursued until we had resolution. If someone tells us to bug off and refuses our intentions to be restored, we may try again, but do we really have this type of tenacity to "offer again" that grace and love time and time again? If you follow this passage, you might just find yourself in a 'cycle' of going, offering, and being rejected - repeatedly! But...God tells us to not give up - instead we are to keep it up!
That's some serious obedience there, my friends. Get rejected once and you may return again to see if it was just a fluke, but get rejected time and time again and you don't want to 'go again'. Why? You see no point in it, do you? The one who has something against you refuses to 'give in', let alone forgive. Most individuals would just walk away from that relationship and see it as 'permanently damaged' by whatever it was that caused the riff in the first place. God's plan is that we never 'walk away', but that we return time and time again - remembering his grace goes way beyond the offense - it goes to the heart.
I am not going to debate this whole take a few witnesses or the church leaders with you in this passage. I really just want us to see that God values relationships - he sees the importance in restoration. Why? We need each other - we need what the other adds to the relationship - even when what they add is OUR growth experience. It isn't about the other person - it is about us. Forgiveness isn't for the wimpy. It takes some tenacity to 'go again' to someone who doesn't seem to want to admit they need it! It also means we have to take some time with Jesus to get over the 'pride' we exhibit from time to time when we don't want to go to the other individual to offer forgiveness.
That is how we grow through the experience - we lay down our pride, time and time again. In time, we learn what Jesus wants here - to value the relationship more than we value 'being right' all the time. If you have ever sought forgiveness when you knew you were 'right' in the matter, you know how hard that can be, but the value of the relationship was so much more important than 'being right' will ever be. Just sayin!
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