In this “episode” of Loophole Hunters, we are going to address another perceived “loophole” that we, as Christians, often use an excuse NOT to obey God in the area of relationships.
“You have heard that it was said that forgiveness and agape love are not required when someone has hurt ME.”
In this scenario, we have been hurt in some way by another person (this hurt might be perceived or legitimate), and instead of either overlooking the offense (Prov. 19:11), or showing agape love and forgiveness towards them, we might choose one or more of the following options:
- 1.We openly hold a grudge against that person, either avoiding them or being rude, hateful, or dismissive towards them.
- 2.We secretly hold a grudge against that person, pretending that everything is ok when we around that person, while we are privately bitter towards them.
You might say, “I don’t have to forgive them until/unless they repent and apologize for what they did to me!” But is this a biblical concept? Let’s take a look at a few passages and see if this loophole holds up under the light of Scripture:
PASSAGE #1 – Matthew 18:21-35 – In this passage, Peter asks the question, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter evidently thought that he was being generous by suggesting SEVEN times, but Jesus will soon enlighten him in regards to the truth of God’s expectations. Jesus answers Peter, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus’ surprising answer is supported by a powerful parable, which demonstrates the vast debt that we owe God in regards to our sins against Him. This parable clearly shows that there is no sin that someone could commit against us that comes close to comparing to the sins we have committed against God. There is no debt greater than the one we owe our heavenly Father, and His expectations are made crystal clear in this passage. In reality, this parable teaches that when we choose NOT to forgive (“from the heart,” no less), we make God angry and we put ourselves in eternal jeopardy!
You might say, “But what if they don’t come to me and apologize?!” Let’s allow another passage to answer this for us:
PASSAGE #2 – Luke 17:3 – In this passage of Scripture, Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Notice where the responsibility lies in this situation: Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves!” He doesn’t say, “Pay attention to what the other person has done to YOU!” It is almost as if Jesus is saying, “Stop expecting other people to do what you think they should do! Stop transferring YOUR responsibilities onto OTHER people!” He then specifically instructs us to “rebuke” a brother who sins against us. You will notice that Jesus does not say, “You just wait for them to come to you with an apology, and if they don’t, you can handle it however you see fit.” This is a command that we must actively obey.
When we opt for grudges and bitterness in these situations, we have chosen to disobey God. We also “fail to obtain the grace of God,” cause “trouble,” and “many [may] become defiled” when we take this course of action (Heb. 12:15).
So let’s go back to our first passage in Matthew 18 and wrap this up…
PASSAGE #3 – Matthew 18:15-17 – In this section, Jesus gives us the contingency plan for what to do when someone will NOT listen/repent of the sin that they have committed against us (because – as you know - sometimes, they don’t). We are told to “take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” What does this mean? It means that you get some other Christians involved! It does NOT mean that we go to some other Christians and start gossiping about it, or that we choose a group of “yes men” who we know will take our side; this is about “gaining our brother” (vs. 15) and we need to be seeking true reconciliation!
NOWHERE in this plan do we see grudges, bitterness, hatred, or even a “hands-off” approach towards these people. On the contrary, this is a “hands-ON” approach that could potentially involve the entire church body! The only instance in which we are allowed to biblically avoid, ignore, or neglect a brother or sister in Christ is a scenario where we have followed this plan to its end and we have reached the worse case scenario.
To sum up, there are simply no loopholes to be found when another person/Christian hurts us. Even as the “innocent party,” we are commanded by God in multiple passages of Scripture to take personal responsibility and to seek to restore the relationship. This is so important, in fact, that Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). In other words, “I’m not interested in your worship unless/until you do what I’ve asked you to do within your relationships.”
May God help us to understand the weight of responsibility that we bear, as Christians, when it comes to our relationships with other people! May we learn to approach our wounded spiritual body in the same manner that we approach our wounded physical body; let’s be willing to do whatever it takes to help it heal!