The Difference Between Death and Life: Forgiveness

We are living in brutal days.  Hate, rage and violence are everywhere.  Our country is being destroyed one life at a time.  You will be destroyed  if you allow it.  There is only one antidote to the poison that is flowing everywhere.    Several years ago, while I was writing my book, Day of the Wolf: Unmasking and Confronting Wolves in the Church, I was drawn into a deep study of what the Bible says about forgiveness.   These are the chapters that came out of that study.  I hope they will help you as you prepare for the days ahead.

The Iron Discipline

Little boys dream about being warriors.  But dreaming is not the same as being and doing. Christians may dream about being spiritual warriors.  But dreaming means nothing if there is no daily preparation.  That preparation involves spiritual discipline. And there is one discipline beyond all others that must be part of your life if you are going to confront a wolf.  Because it is such a challenge, I’ve called it The Iron Discipline.

The Iron Discipline is forgiveness.

What is the proof that there is so little real love for Jesus in the church today?  Lack of forgiveness, both getting it from God and giving to others. Spiritual wolves feast on flocks of delicious, backbiting, unforgiving sheep. Instead of real forgiveness there is a lot of fake forgiveness among Christians. But the truth of what is actually in the heart will not stay hidden.

Many years ago, I knew a Christian woman who blamed a doctor for a particular medical procedure that she had experienced. As time went on it became scientifically clear that he had done nothing wrong, but evidence didn’t matter.  She had made a decision about the man and her heart was full of deep hatred for him.  Though she had no contact with him from the time of the procedure, for decades his name could not be mentioned without rage spewing out.  Her hatred grew with the years.

As the trials of life accumulated, which they always do, her anger generalized to include each new negative situation and each new person whom she considered responsible. While she could be charming and very sweet and gave much to her family, anger was always just under the surface and it was expressed in many different ways.  Ultimately, her rage and vindictiveness blinded her to reality and helped bring sorrow and destruction to her own family, a family she truly loved.

Unforgiveness guarantees that we will fall victim to evil delusions that are temptations of Satan.  As we view any negative situation we will seek to justify our anger, bitterness, and self-pity. In doing so, often we reconstruct what we think others have done to us to vindicate our sinful attitudes and actions. Partial truths become “memories” and we will fight to the death in our belief that they are all 100 percent accurate. We will compound the effects of any negative situation by demanding that others accept our view as reality. When they refuse, it offers a new opportunity for hate, rage, bitterness, self-pity and a desire for revenge.  Do not be fooled.  Satan will be happy to cover all of this in a lovely, spiritual wrapping.

To have a congregation full of unforgiving and unforgiven people is very possible in the modern evangelical church where everyone is invited to “say ‘yes’ to Jesus” with no serious preaching about sin and its deadly eternal consequences.  Unforgiving and unforgiven congregations grow from shallow preaching about the Cross. Unforgiving and unforgiven congregations do not experience the true work of the Holy Spirit who, according to Jesus in John 16:8-11, came first to convict the world of sin, not just to help us speak in tongues or “worship”.

Without the humiliation that comes with true conviction of sin there is no sense of need for repentance.  When our understanding of God’s forgiveness is shallow, our forgiveness of others will be shallow. We forgive in the same way that we have experienced the need to be forgiven.

An unforgiven church is an unforgiving church.  Pastors and spiritual leaders who refuse to preach and teach about sin and repentance because they don’t want to offend people and drive them away, deserve the vicious, gossiping, backbiting, divisive congregations they will get. If they think they can ease people into an understanding about sin in a way that guarantees no one will be offended, they are foolish and do not understand the New Testament.  Though they may not be wolves, they shouldn’t be in leadership.

Spiritual wolves are master legalists in part because they are masters of unforgiveness. What may appear to be forgiveness in them is simply waiting for the right moment to exact revenge or execute a quid pro quo.  They’ll “forgive” if the offender does something for them. Wolves do not forget the weaknesses and sins of others. They catalog them for future use.  In this, they are like their father Satan.

Satan uses his wolf attacks to bring wounds that he hopes will never heal, taking away all joy and leaving nothing but bitterness and self-pity.  In that state, we are susceptible to even deeper wounds and greater delusions. We are in danger of becoming spiritual wolves ourselves.

Are you carrying a spiritual/emotional wound? Whether it has come from a wolf attack, from some other source such as bereavement or another kind of loss or misunderstanding, left untreated it will destroy your life and your effectiveness as a servant-warrior for Jesus in this world. The only healing for such wounds is real forgiveness.  But I’m afraid many Christians don’t have the slightest clue about what that looks like.

What Does Forgiveness Look like?

In 2012 there was a striking interview on the U.S. television program 60 Minutes.  It was with a most unusual man.  He had been released from prison after serving 18 years for a crime that he didn’t commit.  He had been wrongly convicted of murdering his wife.  The Innocence Project had spent five years trying to get the courts to re-examine his case based on new DNA evidence that proved conclusively that he was not the killer.

Far worse than the long, unjust battle to reopen the case, it was discovered that during his trial the district attorney, in a criminal act, consciously withheld exculpatory evidence that very likely would have kept him from being convicted.

So an innocent man full of horror and sorrow over his wife’s murder went to prison due to a false accusation and conviction.  But that wasn’t all.  His little son had been three years old at the time of his mother’s death and had witnessed the terrible crime.  He had told what he saw, at that young age even accurately describing the real murderer.  But his testimony was part of the evidence that had been withheld.  To add even more sorrow, as the years passed and the little boy became a teenager, he wrote to his father telling him that he didn’t want to visit him in prison anymore.

The 60 Minutes interviewer asked this poor man, “How did you deal with all of that? So much was taken from you. It seems more than a person could bear.”  The man replied that he had spent years brokenhearted, enraged, full of hate, wanting revenge. But one day he woke up and realized that carrying this awful burden was destroying him.  He couldn’t live with it any longer.  He didn’t want to be the man that he was becoming.  There was only one answer.  He had to forgive all of the people who had done such terrible things to him.  Apparently, he came to this conclusion before there was any hope that he would be exonerated and set free.

So he did it.  He told the interviewer that when he forgave everyone it was as though a giant weight had been lifted off his heart.  As the camera came in close, it was very clear.  His eyes were filled with peace.

I call forgiveness The Iron Discipline because it does not come naturally to us and must be applied over and over, sometimes with great difficulty, throughout our lives.  When someone does something bad to me or my loved ones what comes naturally is stoking my anger until it turns into rage soaked with bitterness. What comes naturally is the desire for revenge. I want to hurt the person who has hurt me or those close to me.

What does it mean to forgive?  Here is a dictionary definition:  Forgiveness means to excuse a fault or offense, to pardon, to renounce anger and resentment, to absolve from the payment of a debt.

A spiritual wolf has attacked you. (Or someone else has hurt you in some way.) You have determined that the person has sinned against you.  That sin could be anything from besmirching your character to something far worse. In your mind, you have sustained real injury.  Perhaps it was to your reputation or your sense of peace and security.  Perhaps you are living with the hell of false accusations that everyone believes. Perhaps it was physical abuse that has polluted your memory and emotions. Or maybe it was done to someone you love. There are many possibilities, but what was taken was important.

There are people who think forgiveness is based on emotion.  “I can’t forgive until I feel forgiving.”  Since they never feel forgiving, they never forgive. And let’s be honest.  It feels good not to forgive.  I get dark satisfaction from nursing the anger that comes with evil memories and desires.  To give that up takes the very Power of God.  I have heard people say, “I’m just not ready to forgive.” That may be honest, but it’s just as foolish as saying, “I’m not ready to give up the cancer that is killing me. I’m going to enjoy it awhile longer.”

True forgiveness starts by realizing and accepting the fact that it is not based on emotion at all. It is an act of the will. The spiritual wolf owes you a debt because of the injury that he has inflicted.  He hasn’t admitted it and maybe he won’t. You are preparing for a confrontation with him.  Spiritual failure is guaranteed if forgiveness is not an essential part of your preparation.

But what does forgiveness require?  It requires kneeling before God in prayer and placing a person into His Hands, trusting Him to be the Righteous Judge.  It requires giving up your right to exact payment for the emotional debt that a person owes you.  It means renouncing your right to be angry any longer.

Though deep emotion is involved, true forgiveness is a judicial decision.  Like all judicial decisions it is made once.  But very likely, you will have to remind yourself of that decision many times.  When memories return, hurt returns and anger with it.  Each time, you choose to remind yourself of the decision you made and give that person to the Lord. Though it may be reaffirmed many times, the act of forgiveness is accomplished once.

Imagine that you are a judge in a court. The prisoner, the person who has sinned against you, stands shackled in the dock of your mind.  Forgiveness is setting that person free, letting him walk out the door unchained.  A year later, you don’t run after him, dragging him back and chaining him up again for the same offense.  You may want to do that, but when you do, you remind yourself of the decision that you made.  You recommit him into God’s Hands, praying blessing upon him.   In a sense, the person who has sinned against you is a prisoner that you are holding in the dungeon of your mind. As you set him free, you are freeing yourself, because as long as he is kept in that dungeon you are imprisoned with him.

In the middle ages, a terrible justice was exacted on murderers. The dead body of the victim was strapped to the murderer’s back to rot until it killed him.  When we do not forgive, it is as though the dead body of the one we hate is strapped to our soul.  As it rots, it kills us with anger, bitterness and self-pity.  The most horrible reality is that Satan can make that rot actually taste good to a soul on its way to hell.

But even knowing all of this, there are many who will say, “I have a right to my anger and desire for revenge.  Why should I give it up? My anger protects me.  If I give it up, I’ll just be hurt again.  Doesn’t the Bible say an eye for an eye? And the one who did this to me hasn’t asked to be forgiven anyway, so I don’t need to forgive him until he does. Isn’t that what the Bible teaches?”

Many times this leads to disastrous confrontations. Because we believe that we don’t need to forgive until the perpetrator asks to be forgiven we decide, “I’ve got to get this individual to acknowledge and accept what he has done to me. Then he’ll ask to be forgiven. Unless that happens, my wound will never heal and I don’t have to forgive.”

Wrong.

This puts forgiveness and healing into the hands of another person who may never want forgiveness and who may even be dead.  As long as we believe this lie our wounds will never heal.  Could Jesus have taught something that would put us into such a bind?  He didn’t. So what did He really teach about forgiveness?

Vertical and Horizontal

As we deal with the damage done by spiritual wolves, it’s vital that we have a clear understanding of what Jesus taught about forgiveness.  He taught two kinds and both work together. To misunderstand either one is to misunderstand what forgiveness toward others means in the New Testament. The teaching of one kind to the exclusion of the other has been disastrous in the church.

The first kind that Jesus taught has been called “Vertical Forgiveness” and it’s found in Mark 11:25-26:

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

This kind of forgiveness is between you and God, that’s why it has been called “vertical”. In your opinion, someone has done something that damaged you.  You hold something against that person.  From your viewpoint, the individual has caused you palpable loss.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that your view of the situation is accurate. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but that doesn’t matter.

The person who did these things to you may never ask to be forgiven.  He or she may be dead. They may not believe that they have done anything wrong.  Maybe the wrong done to you was intentional, as in the case of a spiritual wolf, or maybe it wasn’t, but you thought it was.  It may be people in a faceless institution. There are endless permutations. Whatever the case, in your mind with your view of the circumstances, you believe that you have a right to be angry and, if possible, to require justice of some sort.  At the very least, you believe that you are owed a serious apology.

However, in obedience to Jesus’ command in Mark 11, in humility and faith, you give up what you consider to be your right to require justice. In prayer you unconditionally release the offender into God’s Hands, forgiving him once and for all, for the debt that he owes to you. You set him free.

This is done in dependence on God’s Justice knowing that He is the only one who understands what happened. You release the individual to God not with the angry hope that He will punish that person, but that God will work in his life to bring him to repentance so that he can receive eternal forgiveness and blessing. It acknowledges that you do not know the whole truth and if you are wrong in any way about what happened, you want God to do what is right.

This act of forgiveness acknowledges that all sins are really against God and He is the One who has the right to judge and punish the wicked. Based on the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, who died to the pay the penalty for the sins of the world, God’s Justice has been satisfied and He can forgive.

This act of forgiveness on your part acknowledges one overwhelming fact.  Whatever is owed to you, you owe much more than that to God.  Whatever sins have been committed against you, you have sinned much more against Him.  Whatever it costs you to forgive, it cost God infinitely more to forgive you. It cost the death of His Son.  Since He has forgiven you for so much at such a price, you must forgive others.

This is clearly taught in Jesus’ parable found in Matthew 18:21-19:1.

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.  Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.  The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’  Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 

“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’  So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’   And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.  So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.  Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Notice at the end Jesus doesn’t say anything about the trespassing brother coming to ask to be forgiven. In the Lord’s prayer there is nothing about it.  When He was dying on the cross and forgave those who were killing Him, they hadn’t asked to be forgiven. Those who believe that you can’t forgive until someone asks to be forgiven are making a terrible mistake.

What is the end result of vertical forgiveness? Where should it lead us? We pledge to God that we will deal with the one who has offended us in sacrificial love.

The Apostle Paul described what our attitude should be in Romans 12:17-21: Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”   Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 Many people misunderstand what Paul meant when he said “give place to wrath”.  They think it means that it’s all right to be full of anger toward an enemy.  But that isn’t what it means at all. It means to give up your anger. Set your anger aside and give place to God’s wrath if He chooses to exercise it because all vengeance belongs to Him. In the meantime, insofar as it is possible, do nothing but good for your enemy.

When someone does something that hurts us it is normal to feel angry. God knows that we are going to get angry.  That’s part of being human in a fallen world.  If you don’t ever get angry about anything, something is wrong with you. There is a place for anger, but it must be strictly limited. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26-27:

“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.

After a brief period of being angry, set it aside. Don’t even hold it overnight.  One form of holding on to anger is the carrying of grudges. How destructive that has been in the church!

During the 1940’s in my mother’s hometown of Tonkawa, Oklahoma, all of her family went to the little Presbyterian Church that is located there. This was during the great modernist/fundamentalist war that raged in the major denominations.  Her family in Tonkawa split.  One brother-in-law and his clan left the church to start a new non-denominational church a few blocks away.  Another brother-in-law and his family stayed Presbyterian.  The rancor between these families became so intense that they rarely spoke to each other, though they lived only two miles apart in that little town. The brothers-in-law never spoke.  When my family would come down from Chicago to visit in the summer, we would bounce back and forth between the warring clans.  It broke my mother’s heart.

Finally, that generation began to die off. One brother-in-law passed away in 1967.  In the mid-1980’s my wife and I visited Tonkawa and spent time with the other aging brother-in-law.  In my presence he said, “If Ernest is in Heaven, I don’t want to go there.”  I hope he repented of that.  He’s been dead now for years.

The second kind of forgiveness that Jesus taught has been called “horizontal”.  It takes place between people and it’s found in Luke 17:3-4: Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Horizontal forgiveness is conditional forgiveness. Conditional? But wait, didn’t we just say that real forgiveness is unconditional?  Horizontal forgiveness is conditional in the sense that we verbalize it when the offender asks to be forgiven. After the individual acknowledges his sin against you and asks for forgiveness you can speak the words of release, “I forgive you.”

But preparation to forgive in this way has already been made through vertical forgiveness between you and God. In prayer you have forgiven the person so you are ready to complete the action when he asks for it.  That’s how the two types of forgiveness that Jesus taught work together.  But be cautious, serious mistakes have been made by well-intentioned Christians who rush up and forgive someone when that person hasn’t asked to be forgiven and may not want it.

There are times when we should tell someone they are forgiven though they haven’t asked for it.  Often, those are times when the perpetrator is filled with so much sorrow for his actions, is so humiliated or is so damaged, that he can’t imagine you could ever forgive, yet you do. This can be the most powerful witness to the reality and Love of Christ. The Holy Spirit will guide.

In horizontal forgiveness, the request to be forgiven should be real.  How do we know that it’s real?  There is some kind of honest attempt to make things right or to change. This comes from a humble attitude of the heart.  Watch for the smallest change and desire to make things right.  That may be in the request for forgiveness itself. The very request may be a major step for that individual.  When you see it, accept it as evidence.

In Jesus’ parable about the servant who was forgiven a huge amount by the king then refused to forgive someone who owed him only a little, the man’s actions proved that there was no real gratitude or repentance in him. But in watching for true repentance, we should never stand over a person waiting for him to fail.  This is not forgiveness and proves that “vertical forgiveness” has not taken place.

After asking to be forgiven, if your brother or sister does fail and asks to be forgiven again you are to do so. As Jesus told His disciples, a person may stumble many times a day and if he repents, he must be forgiven. There will be no strength to do this if the judicial act of real forgiveness isn’t taking place between you and God.

Over and over, Jesus gave the most serious warning possible about forgiveness.  If we refuse to forgive others, our Father in Heaven will not forgive us. This is echoed in the Lord’s Prayer.  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  We might read that “in the same manner” in which we forgive our debtors.

How would you like for God to forgive you?  Would you like for Him to say He’s forgiven you, then years later or maybe when you die, shove all your sins back in your face? Do you want Him to forgive you conditionally?  “I’ll forgive you as long as you never do anything that hurts Me again?” Is that what you want?  If not, then as you pray to the Father, forgive others in the same way that you want God to forgive you, unconditionally and completely. That means no strings attached.  Forgive others as though your eternal life depended upon it.

Was Jesus Serious About Rebuking?

I’m afraid so. The horizontal (conditional) forgiveness that Jesus teaches in Luke 17 assumes that we are going to rebuke the person who has sinned against us.  The Greek word that is translated “rebuke” means to censure and/or admonish. Those are strong words.  Censure is to vehemently express disapproval about the thing that was done. Admonish means to strongly urge someone to do something that he should do to make a situation right. That is the heart of confronting a wolf and is an essential part of working toward forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.

What kinds of rebuking are Biblical? None of them are easy. First, there is the kind that Jesus taught when dealing with a brother or sister who has sinned against you.  We’ll talk about that kind of personal confrontation in the next chapter. The rebuking that takes place there is done after vertical forgiveness has been declared and is never done in anger or with vindictiveness.  The wrong kind of “rebuking” is not of God and will do great damage.  Satan loves such rebukes because they bring destruction to everyone involved.

But there is another type of godly rebuke.

In the introduction to this book, I wrote about the New Tribes missionary who had been convicted of creating and distributing child pornography, photographing little girls in the Amazon, children to whom he had been sent to minister in the Name of Jesus.  After being caught by federal authorities, he repented.  There are Christians who believe that such a person shouldn’t be rebuked publicly by the church.  The state should do its job, while the church simply should love this man and assist in his healing.  To rebuke him would be “piling on”.  While this sounds loving, is it Biblical?

The rebuke that takes place first between two people alone is designed to re-establish a relationship that has been broken due to a private matter. There are two other purposes for rebuking within the church.  The first is to end a sin that is taking place and bring about repentance and the second is to instill righteous fear in others.

There is no doubt that the church should love an individual and accept his or her repentance. However, the New Testament is clear about publicly rebuking those whose sins are not private and that affect the entire body. When the sin has been public and has affected many people, the rebuke and the statement of repentance should be public.

Our problem with rebuking is the manner in which we imagine it being done.  We imagine that the only way to rebuke is harshly with cold eyes and cold hearts.  After Peter denied the Lord three times, all it took was a single look from Jesus.  I’m sure that in that look was the deepest sorrow and love.  Not a word was spoken, but it was the heaviest rebuke he could ever have received and it was without condemnation.  Peter’s repentance was real and came with tears.

Any kind of rebuke in the Body of Christ should be given with deep sorrow, deep love and without condemnation. In particular, this should be true of a public rebuke.  Such a rebuke is a statement of the facts and how the sinful actions have damaged many. Then there is the call for repentance and, if possible, restitution. After the rebuke and public repentance, the person who has sinned should be shown public forgiveness through the love of Christ and acceptance by the entire body. This is the beginning of real healing. Such a public rebuke and repentance calls on all who have witnessed it to examine their own lives as they forgive.

But caution should be exercised. What the young man did in the Amazon to little children who were under his care are the actions of a spiritual wolf, a vicious predator, and, possibly, a psychopath. After he returns to society from prison, the church should watch him with great loving care until his repentance is confirmed by godly actions over a very significant period of time.  Born wolves, psychopathic personalities, are quick to “repent” even with tears, but it’s all an act.  There is no change of heart and they will attack again.

Clearly, the Apostle Paul believed in the proper role of rebuking within the church.

2 Timothy 4:2: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Titus 1:10-14: For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.

Titus 2:11-15: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.  Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.

In dealing with false teachers and their followers, Paul commands the most confrontational form of rebuking. He wanted their mouths stopped. But there were proper times for that kind of rebuking and times when other approaches should be used.

Paul tells Timothy: Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

The Greek word that is translated “exhort” means to call near, to invite, to implore, to entreat and beseech. It includes strong pleading.  These people are not false teachers/spiritual wolves, they are doing things that are wrong and need correction.  If Biblical exhorting and rebuking were taking place today perhaps there would be far fewer wolves in church leadership and more believers growing toward maturity.

What most of us want is for those who have sinned against us to realize what they have done and ask to be forgiven without our doing anything except, perhaps, forgiving them before God and praying for them.  Forgiving a person and praying for him is meant to prepare our hearts for the important step of rebuking.

No one likes to be rebuked.  No spiritually healthy person enjoys rebuking others.  But where it is possible (and there are situations where it isn’t possible) godly rebuking with love and sorrow is essential.  The purpose is to bring repentance which means a change of life direction. Godly rebuking is an act of self-sacrificing love. Godly rebuking cannot be accomplished without God’s Love working in us.  Do we love someone enough to take the risk of confronting and rebuking that person when he has sinned?

When I was a young man, during the time that I was Supervisor of Production and Talent at the Christian radio station, WMBI in Chicago, one of our most gifted freelance writer/producers began having an affair with a woman who was also a free-lance writer for us.  The writer/producer’s wife was part of our freelance talent team as well.  These three people were all my friends.  I looked up to the man who had instigated the affair.  I didn’t want to offend him or be rejected by him, so in the face of his sin I was silent.  I even went to a party hosted by this “couple”.

Sadly, I wasn’t the only one who remained silent. In fact, there was only one man at WMBI who knew about the situation who cared enough and had the courage to confront our adulterous friend.  The confrontation was a step toward his repentance. Later he asked why no one else had cared enough to confront him with the truth.  I was silent.  All I could do was repent.

I had convinced myself that the adulterous situation really wasn’t my business. None of these people were full-time employees of the Moody Bible Institute.  I came up with all sorts of reasons to say nothing. But as members of the Body of Christ, what happens to one of us affects us all.

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