I had the privilege of spending almost 5 days in the Ukraine last week at the Azov sea. I was part of a team from Hoffmantown church that went to Precept Ukraine’s annual festival. We spent 5 days together studying God’s Word and encouraging one another. There were over 800 attendees at the festival from all different parts of Ukraine, even some from the war torn areas.
While there, one of the evening messages was preached by Costel Oglice, one of the leaders of the Precept Ministries Eurasia. He preached on what do you do when someone sin’s against you. I would like to share that message with you here.
If you live long enough, you will eventually sin against another person, and others will eventually sin against you. What are you going to do when you are sinned against? How will you respond? How does God want you to respond?
Imagine for a moment that you are a teacher of the Word of God and you have led a group of people to the Lord. You have invested much time, effort, blood sweat and tears, your heart into these people, establishing them in God’s Word and you have to leave them for a time to minister to others, planning on returning to that group of people and continue working with them. Now, while you are gone, another person gets that group of people together to teach them more about God. As he meets with them, he begins to bad mouth you, attacking your abilities, your character, and your motives. You get word that not only has this group of people not defended you, but, instead, they actually start believing the lies spread about you. How would you respond? Would you get angry? Would you attack the person who has defamed you? Would you attack your disciples who did not defend you? Would you just ignore the situation and go on investing in others? This is the very thing that happened to the apostle Paul in Corinth. He brought the Gospel into the dark city of Corinth. People were liberated from their terrible sins by the power of the Gospel. Paul established them in God’s Word. He was called on a mission trip and while ministering, he gets word that another has come to his (Paul’s) disciples and deceived them, actually turning them against Paul. God teaches us what He wants us to do when sinned against, via Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthian church. Take a moment to read II Corinthians 2.
I. Motivated by love
Paul loved the Corinthians. He had led them to the Lord. He had invested so much in them. He had witnessed their spiritual growth. God called Paul to new territory and he obeyed, while the Corinthians were still on his mind. While on his missionary journey, he gets word of what has happened in Corinth. He is sad, hurt, and angry. He turns to the Lord for comfort and God comforts him. Once comforted, Paul is motivated by love to grab a quill and parchment and write a “love” letter to the Corinthian church, most likely the 4th one that his has written to them. Love motivates Paul to communicate with his disciples, not to condemn but to help them from continuing to be deceived. When you are sinned against, do you turn to God for comfort? Does love drive you to communicate with that person or persons? Do you take initiative to resolve the conflict?
II. Motivated to confront
When sinned against, confrontation must take place. We usually avoid it because we fear it. If we were honest with ourselves, none of us likes to confront but God calls us to do so for the good of the one who sinned against us and for the purpose of restoring relationships. Paul, at first, wanted to come and confront the Corinthians for not defending him but he chose to wait because he did not want to be led by the flesh. Instead, God motivated Paul to confront in a letter first, to open the lines of communication so that when Paul would eventually see them face to face, there would be joy and not sorrow. He confronted their sin in the form of their attitudes and actions, as well as their words. They had been led astray by false teaching and because of it, they had made terrible assumptions about Paul. Once confronted, the Corinthians felt sorrow, not for being caught but for the error of their ways. They repented of their attitudes, actions, and words. Paul received word of their repentance and he rejoiced greatly, not because of the sorrow but because of the repentance that the sorrow brought about. Do you confront those who sin against you, doing so humbly with gentleness and love? Do you take initiative to resolve conflict, even when confrontation must take place? What current conflict needs resolving and what do you need to do about it? Once you confront and repentance takes place, what are you to do next?
III. Motivated to forgive
Forgiveness follows confrontation, sorrow, and repentance. The root word of forgiveness in the Greek language is “grace”. Grace means receiving what you do not deserve. As people, we do not deserve forgiveness yet God chooses to offer it to us. Until we experience God’s forgiveness in our own lives, it is nearly impossible for us to forgive others the way that God desires. Yet, once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, it is possible to extend that forgiveness to others, even if they have sinned against us. Paul offered that forgiveness to the Corinthians which opened the door to reconciliation and relationships restored. Does it always happen this way? No, not always. Many times, those whom we confront in love end up turning on us and continue to keep the relationship broken. In this case, the opposite happened and the relationship was restored. Once you offer forgiveness, what is the next step in the process?
IV. Motivated to comfort
Earlier in II Corinthians 1, Paul talks about how God comforts those who are in pain, who are suffering, who are experiencing sorrow. Paul experienced that comfort and learned of the value of extending that comfort to others, showing them how they can experience God’s comfort. Now that you have forgiven from the heart, reach out to the person and extend God’s comfort to him or her. When a person sins against you, he or she stumbles and falls. He or she misses the mark and gets off the path and ends up in the mud and muck. The word comfort literally means to reach down and lift up. The reason that we confront and forgive is to restore the person. Restoration involves reaching out and lifting the person putting him or her back on his or her feet. You do not do all of this to videcate yourself, you do it for the good of the one who has sinned against you. You have already experienced God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and comfort and now He has given you a chance to offer all of these to others. How do you view a situation in which a person sin’s against you? Do you feel that is a trial that you must pass through or do you see it as an opportunity to extend God’s love, forgiveness, and comfort to the ones who sin against you?
V. Motivated to love
This entire process begins and ends with love, God’s love. Now that the person has been restored, you must inspire and encourage others to show the same love to him or her that God has shown, no matter what he or she has done. Love motivates us, it challenges us, and it sustains us as we walk through this difficult process. In the end, God is glorified in the midst of all of this and this is what sets us apart from the world. We have conflict just as the world does. The difference between the world and us (believers) is how we resolve the conflict, confronting it leading to repentance, forgiveness, comfort, and restoration while the world just tears apart and destroys in the midst of conflict.
Are you a peace maker? Do you love the people around you? Does that love motivate you to extend God’s love to the people around you? What about in the midst of conflict, how do you show that you have experienced God’s love and live in God’s love? This is when the test of your faith comes. If you claim to have faith but do not follow God’s teaching in overcoming conflict then what does that say about your faith? Are you ready to extend God’s love? May the Lord help us follow His ways at all times.