Written by Joe Watson. Media by Max Gensler [divide]
Everyone has been stabbed in the back by someone that loves them at one time or another. It would be very surprising if there was someone who has never been let down by someone they trust. Betrayal comes in all sorts and sizes. Maybe your father never supported you in your hobbies and pursuits when you were growing up. It’s possible that your friends have said something behind your back. The point is that sin is devastating to those who find themselves in its wake.
To be “in the wake of” is an idiom which refers to the waves which are created by a boat. In other words, it means to be a part of a result that you did not necessarily cause. There are a lot of times when we get caught in someone else’s sin and we had nothing to do with the situation. To feel broken and betrayed can lead to a lot of problems, but the truth is that we should truly know how to respond.
I think that most people have read in Matthew, where Jesus says, “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him,“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matt. 18:21-22 ESV) This is the obvious response. All too often we think that reconciliation with another person means that we must remain in proximity to them. I haven’t found a commandment anywhere in the Bible that says we should spend every Sunday with the person or persons who have wronged us. Although, with that in mind, I do think that the Bible asks us to physically forgive others by confronting them. For Jesus, just before telling Peter how many times we must forgive, instructs us on how to carry out that forgiveness saying,
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18: 15-17)
There are two things to consider when engaging in this topic.
- If someone in the church is hurt by this person they may need to remove themselves from the situation in order to heal.
- There may be a wound that is being reopened by forcing someone to interact with someone who has hurt them deeply.
There are a few obvious situations that could be thought of: pedophilia, rape, murder, and divorce. A person should never be forced to interact with someone who has scarred them in one of these ways or in other harmful ways, except for when they are forgiving their transgressor. Reconciliation is something that all sides of the issue should be involved in.
Paul shows us a great example of this in the book of Philemon. Paul writes to Philemon concerning his slave, Onesimus, who wronged him by running away from his lawful master. In some crazy turn of events, Paul meets Onesimus in jail, which leads him to faith in Christ. To reconcile, Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon to settle their differences. The catch is that both parties have to cooperate to reach a place of agreement. When Onesimus returns he must remain faithful, and do whatever his master asks. The point of this whole illustration is this: the person that is wronged decides how the relationship will continue. It is up to them to make Christ-like decisions while being tossed in the wake of sinful waves, but we as Christians make our decisions by looking to God’s word for guidance and by praying to him daily about these issues.