This week has been a learning week for me. Well, actually, the past few weeks. I have been surprised to learn that I am still pretty naïve about a lot of topics that I thought I was well aware of. The stance of political parties being one. Church life being another. The second is what I want to talk about.
I have learned that I often take things at face value, like common phrases, and never really look deeper into the meaning. This particularly struck me during a discussion with a friend about a situation she was in involving other Christians. Without really thinking I replied with “they’re only human” by which I meant she should remember that Christians can’t always be perfect and we do often get things wrong.
Quite rightly, she shot me down, explaining why this phrase was so unhelpful.
While I was right in what I was trying to say, it was only useful as a first step. The problem was that people had been telling her this as a way of justifying the actions which had upset her. It is true that they are not expected to be perfect, however that does not negate the fact that they did something wrong.
What had upset her most in this situation was that these words were from other Christians. The people in question had not accepted that they had done anything wrong. No apology offered from them at all.
It is something I have come to realise Christians are pretty bad at: apologising for messing up. Not to God- we seem to be perfectly capable of that and in certain churches even recite a prayer of apology in unison. Despite this, we seem to be bad at apologising to each other. We- and I’m saying ‘we’ as I know it is something I struggle with as well- seem to find the task of humbling ourselves and admitting to each other that we were in the wrong an impossible task. Or an unnecessary one.
There is a line from C S Lewis in his book ‘Prince Caspian’ that I love:
“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.”
It often strikes me that Christians do not hold these two in balance. They either tend to the end of feeling too lowly and excusing all their wrong doing because they are human and can’t change the way they are; or they are skewed the other way. They claim they can’t possibly do things wrong because they are of God and God forgives them of all wrong so why should they answer to others?
And in this lies another issue: the difference between accountability and judgement. We are told time and again “do not judge, lest ye be judged”, and it scares us enough to hide any criticism we want to make.
Matthew 5:23-24 says this:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you; leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
This text seems to have been forgotten, or at least I rarely hear it preached on or talked about. People are so interested in the Beatitudes that come before that they miss the explanation of how to live them after.
The phrase ‘something against you’ doesn’t just mean if someone else thinks you have done something wrong; it’s also meaning if they have something against you in a way that they are responsible. Such as them preaching something unbiblical or hurting you without realising they are. These all come under this phrase and all need to be addressed. God wants us to be accountable to each other.
Here is what Matthew 18:15-17 says:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
It is our duty- but also our honour- to love and care for one another. How do you care for a child? By teaching them the correct moral standard. By explaining to them when they do something wrong why it is wrong. How does God care for us? “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). Our Father sets us the guide for how to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We should not hide from one another, but know that what we say should be thought through, carefully prayed over and said with the greatest love for each other. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Be humble, love your neighbour, honour your God, and seek to understand Him better by apologising when you get things wrong. It should be as simple as that, why do we have to make it so complicated?
I’ll stop as I’m starting to sound like Avril Lavigne, but it’s something I definitely need to consider more. Please let me know what you think of this in the comments (I love a good chat 🙂 ).
Yours Faithfully and Humbly,