The Gospels, Thorny Topics
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From Victim to Victor

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Matthew 18:15
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

In this verse Jesus tells us how to deal with a “brother” who wrongs us in some way. To understand this verse, it is important to first note that by using the word “brother” Jesus was specifically referring to one believer offending/hurting another believer. Instructions on dealing with offenses of unbelievers (the world) on Christians were given earlier in Matthew 5:38-48.

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” ~Galatians 6:1

The key feature of the verse, however, is that it focuses on the rescuing the offender instead of on recompensing the offended. Jesus is telling us that the wronged should be more concerned about the spiritual state of the wrongdoer than the wrong done.

Typically, our focus is exactly the opposite. We are usually concerned with the victim’s rights. We want to make sure that the person that was hurt is recompensed, reimbursed, or in some other way compensated for their loss/pain; especially when we are the victims. Indeed, the whole world thinks this way and all worldly justice systems are based on that principle. But, Jesus wants His followers to take a different approach.

In the verse, Jesus turns our conventional thinking upside down. He instructs the offended person to SEEK out the offender to “gain” (i.e., to rescue or recover) him/her. So the mission of the victim is NOT to gain justice for themselves, NOT to regain what was taken away, NOT even to gain an apology. The mission of the injured is to rescue the injurer. In other words, Jesus is saying that the loss of my brother, spiritually, to sin is more important than whatever my brother did to sin against me.

Jesus is challenging us to take our eyes away from ourselves, from our feelings, from our hurts. Jesus is challenging us to examine which person is in the worse spiritual state. The victim remains in a righteous relationship with God, but the offender is out of fellowship with God until he/she repents.

This change in perspective is a great hurdle for us to overcome, because we are usually so preoccupied with ourselves, so determined to defend and secure our rights. However, God values the spiritual state of a person more than anything else. That is why Jesus died on the cross: so that we could be made righteous through His blood and have fellowship with God. Consequently, when a believer sins, God is concerned with the spiritual restoration of that believer.

“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” ~James 5:19-20

To be clear, God does care about our hurts; He does care about justice; God IS just.

“…there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.” ~ Isaiah 45:21b

BUT, He has told us to leave the execution of justice to Him, because, ultimately, all sin is against God; even those sins done to us.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:19

Instead, God’s purpose is to use me to help my brother, who has sinned against me, to see his wrong and come back into fellowship with God and with me. God loves us, even when we sin against Him and, similarly, God expects us to love our brother even when he sins against us. When we sin against God, He doesn’t make us pay Him back… for we couldn’t. Instead, God entreats us to repent and return to fellowship with Him. So, whenever a brother sins against us… God expects us to follow His example.

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