Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Monday, October 01, 2007

When Your Brother or Sister Sins Against You

Pastor’s Window on October, 2007

When Your Brother or Sister Sins Against You

Beloved in Christ,

It happens even in the Holy Christian Church. Someone says something or does something that is offensive to another Christian brother or sister, and there is division and strife. The old sinful flesh, which has been put to death in Holy Baptism, still clings to us, and as long as we allow it to master us, it tempts us to obsess over the other person’s sins. So what is a Christian to do when sinned against by a Christian brother or sister?

First of all, don’t let the sins of others eat at you. It is sinful to obsess over the sins of others. When you find yourself obsessing over the sins and faults of others, real or imagined, repent. There is forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And remember that that Word of Gospel applies both to you and to the brother or sister in question. You are forgiven in Christ for obsessing over another’s sin. And your brother or sister is forgiven in Christ for the sin perpetrated against you. Since that is so… since you have been freely forgiven of all your sins by the blood of Christ Jesus, and since your neighbor likewise has been forgiven, how can you not also freely forgive? “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Secondly, when a brother or sister sins against you, do not go and tell others. Go directly to that brother or sister and talk with them. Seek reconciliation one on one. There is no need to bring others along unless the offender refuses to repent after your persistent attempts at reconciliation (Matt. 18:15-17). This direct contact with the person in question is important for several reasons. For one, you might be mistaken about the motives and actions of the one who offended you. You may actually be sinning against them by thinking evil of them in your heart, when they did not, in fact, sin against you. You also have a responsibility under the 8th Commandment to protect your neighbor’s good name and reputation. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way” (Luther’s Small Catechism). An older translation of the Catechism says we should “put the best construction on everything.” That means that even if we think our neighbor has sinned against us, we should give them every benefit of the doubt that they did not mean to do it, did not realize they did it, and would never have done it if they knew it would bring us pain. We should defend our neighbor at all costs, always assuming and speaking only the best of him.

For this reason, we teach children not to tattle on their peers. Tattling, gossip, and slander always result in damage, even when the information imparted is true. “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:7-8; ESV). The reason is this: A person is only as good as his name in the eyes of others. When you tear down a person’s reputation, you are tearing down that person. And this is grave sin. It is murder of a person’s reputation. Every last one of us is guilty of this sin. We assume the worst about someone who has sinned against us (at least from our perspective) and we publish the incident by talking behind the person’s back. Every last one of us needs to repent. You do and I do. (Let me be the first to say that I am sorry if I have ever done this to any of you. I repent.) And then let us turn to Jesus and receive His mercy and forgiveness. He is longsuffering and abounding in love. There is always forgiveness for sinners in Him. So we too will gladly forgive one another and speak well of each other.

Epiphany Lutheran Church is a close-knit congregational family. We live life together as those forgiven and redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ. So we also live in love, service, and forgiveness toward one another. We are all sinners, and wherever two sinners are gathered together, there will be sin against one another. Thus there will be sin and offense and division and strife even in this community of faith. But wherever two forgiven sinners are gathered together, there will also be forgiveness of one another. This forgiveness flows from Christ and through us to our neighbor. So what should you do if your brother or sister sins against you? Forgive them, unconditionally and completely. And live in the unconditional and complete forgiveness that your Lord Jesus won for you on the cross.

Pastor Krenz


Anonymous Anonymous said...

what if it is someone who is not a Christian and takes advantage and abuses you at work?

4:00 AM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Then you should still go to that person and confront them in a loving way with their sin against you. In this way, you may just help them come to repentance and faith in Christ. Or you may be rejected, in which case, you bear that rejection for the Name of Christ. In any case, you should forgive, as in Christ you have been forgiven. The Lord be with you.

8:43 AM  

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