by Jennie Smith
In just the last few months, I have noticed an ugly trend on Facebook. Social media has become an acceptable way to deal with our hurts and grievances with other people. Facebook, along with other social media avenues, has become the modern-day marketplace for public floggings. I have been very grieved to see my friends, family, and even myself become the object of such public scorn.
In the time of Jesus, a sinner would be brought out to the public square, publicly scolded, and even put to death. Do you remember what Jesus did in one of these cases? Read the story again from John 8:2-11:
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught
them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
All of us are sinners. We have done awful things that have offended and hurt others. Does that mean we deserve to have our sin exposed before all of our friends and family and even complete strangers? Jesus came to change things – to change the way we think, the way we speak, the way we act, and certainly the way we treat our fellow man. He graciously gave us a step by step plan to deal with the hurts that others cause us. Here it is directly from Matthew 18:15-20:
“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. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
We call this the Matthew 18 Principle. Here are the steps:
1. If someone has hurt you, go to them. Go to them privately. It may be tempting to text or email and if that is all you can do, then do it. However, a face to face talk is best. Hopefully, they will ask your forgiveness and you can be restored to each other. But if they are not willing to work it out with you, you can move onto step 2.
3. And if they still won’t listen, go to a higher authority – the church, your boss – whoever it may be that is appropriate to the situation.