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Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 30 : Go to Offenders | Day 204

Go to Offenders!

The feud began between a brother and sister but was carried on by their children and had the potential of lasting for generations. The older brother was the executor of their parents' estate and, according to his younger sister, took thousands of dollars from the inheritance for himself before dividing it with her.

This offended sister never went to her brother to talk about it. Instead, she allowed the offense to grow into bitter animosity with her brother. If she would have followed the clear instruction of this command, she quickly would have understood the full story and spared herself and many others much grief.

While her parents were alive, her older brother had loaned them a significant amount of money. In order to pay back the debt, they told him to take it out of the estate before he divided it with his sister. Had she gone to her brother when she first became offended, she would have prevented the misunderstanding from turning into a family feud.

Command Thirty: “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. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:15-17).

There are several reasons why it is hard for us to go to an offender. One reason is the fear of being hurt again. The pain of being offended causes us to draw back from the one who hurt us and build walls of protection around ourselves. This "cutting off" of spirit toward another person leads to feelings of hatred, which carries serious penalties. (See I John 3:15.)

A second reason is that we assume the offender will not listen to us. However, we are not responsible for the outcome of the situation. Our responsibility in going to an offender is to humbly and accurately present the offense with the goal of reconciliation.

Another reason it is difficult to go to an offender is that we may have had past offenders react to us when we have gone to them with wrong attitudes. This only created a bigger problem and made us wish that we had never gone to them in the first place. In order to prevent this, we must search our own hearts first and make sure our motives and attitudes are consistent with Scripture. It takes careful and thorough spiritual preparation to go to an offender.

“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).

This command reveals the heart of God and His desire for there to be harmony among believers. The prayer Jesus prayed for all of us is “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us …” (John 17:21). Let's cooperate with God's desire for unity by humbly going to our offenders in order to restore and reconcile our relationships as peacemakers.

“… If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone … ” (Matthew 18:15).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard