I've always been a burier.
Not always standing up for myself.
Convincing myself when things go wrong that I don't really mind or that it didn't really matter.
Never wanting to confront the one who caused the problem in my mind.
Somehow I thought that would be ungodly – to speak my mind, even in a firm, kind way, to someone who had hurt me.
What if they rejected me?
What if I lost their friendship?
I might end up with no friends.
What if they yelled?
My husband might not love me.
I never wanted to cause a problem or be known as a person who made a fuss or caused a bother. Things would happen to me and I would just soldier on, pretending that it didn't hurt. I always assumed the other person was in the right and I was in the wrong, so to express my feelings of pain, was to me, a sin.
I don't think like that these days.
God has taught me otherwise.
It is not Holy to bury pain.
It leads to sickness and a possible early death from stress.
You see Jesus had a bit to say about us “buriers”. He told the apostles to stop it and they freaked out about not having enough faith to do it. That was pretty much my response when God first started showing me this.
“Who can do that!?”
I'm pretty sure I have a lot more to learn on this. But this is what I have learned so far, from two very similar passages in Matt 18:15-20 and Luke 17:1-10. There are more that speak on this issue, but today I am focusing on these in my writing.
Step 1 Expose.
Evil or sin must be exposed, named and confronted.
“So watch yourselves, if you brother sins, rebuke him” Luke 17:3
“If your brother sins against you go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Matt 18:15
The evil must be brought into the light. Satan wants things to be kept hidden. I've written on this before. How can evil be fought if it is not brought out into the open? How can repentance happen if there is no statement of what is evil? How can restitution take place if there is no acknowledgement of a rent in the relationship?
Jesus says I am to have the opportunity to plead my case,
to state my cause,
But only to the one who has caused me grief.
If I tell others first...it's gossip.
Burried anger leads me into sin (for me usually bitterness and resentment) and I too then become guilty of sin (Deut 18:20). We are to keep a short account with our families, friends and neighbours. (Eph 4:26,27) We are to keep the communication open, no matter how painful that is, especially to begin with.
This takes time. Not just in the sense of it takes time to learn the technique, but also in a different sense. Good, open communication takes a LOT of time together. Relationships take time. It's not rocket science. :) The more I see and spend time with someone, the better the relationship. This was a problem for me in the past – I put put work or ministry before family relationships and the results become obvious with time. My ministry and work become my idol. My family and marriage came second. My ministries put a strain on my marriage and family. Interestingly, I have yet to see a marriage go wrong where there was quality time spent together, very often. But there is no good knowing all this. I had to put it into practice.
For us, that means 6 nights a week we spend together, talking, reading, praying, giving each other massages.
For us, that means home schooling our children - for I found that the few hours I was given before school and after homework was finally finished, was not enough. I was losing my children. They saw their peers and teachers more than me! The communication lines were not being kept open. The result: sin was not being talked about and there was a lot of bitterness to sort through.
Now I have to keep this in mind with other scriptures that tell us to submit, as husbands, wives, employees etc. These verses are not to be in oppostion to each other. They are to complement each other. This has made an interesting change in our marriage. On the one hand I am to lovingly explain to my husband when I feel hurt or upset about something he has done but I am also to let him lead our household, for he is the one accountable to God for the leadership role, not me. I have been given the important role of second-in-charge. I am held accountable about that.
If at this point, having named the sin and rebuked the offender, there is a repentance on their behalf then Jesus says I am to forgive them – to make a conscious decision to let them go of their guilt. Just as I would like to be let go of the guilt of my sin, if the shoe were on the other foot. And if this cycle continues over and over through out the day, I am still to forgive them.
“If he listens to you, you have won your brother over” Matt 18:15
“and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says 'I repent', forgive him.” Luke 17:3,4
Now if he ignore my concerns, then Jesus gives me the next step.
Step 2 Witnesses
“But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by two or three witnesses'.” Luke 18:16
This is a good one to especially teach children. That they are to come to an adult when they are unable to easily resolve concerns. The adult works as a mediator between the two.
My children, while at school, would often complain about this issue. They were taught this principle by the school but when they put it into practice, they would be accused of “dobbing” or “telling” and told to go away, having themselves gotten into trouble for asking the adult to mediate. Sigh! I believe they were justified in their frustration.
I think it's a lot harder for us as adults to implement this, well it is for me. It feels a bit scary to ask a third person to mediate without bias. (The bible has a lot to say about not being biased when you judge or mediate).
I have to confess, I've rarely done this. What I have done is ask someone whom I respect to give their impartial opinion on the situation, but I've never really gotten that person to tag along and mediate. I would baulk at that - because it would seem to make the situation a lot more serious if I brought in a third person. But, I think that is Jesus' point. It is serious. Resolution is important. Unity is important. I need to put my embarrassment aside here.
If there is still no restoration, then Jesus gives us a third step.
Step 3 The Church
“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Finally the matter is to be brought before the church. The role of impartial mediator is then to be given to the church. (See 1 Cor 6) I'm assuming here it is the whole church as otherwise I believe Jesus would have used the word “Elders". I have to say, I haven't ever seen this happen. There seems to be more a hiding of sin than an exposing of sin. Many church leaders have divorced in churches we have attended, yet it was all hushed up. It took months for even morsles of truth to emerge. Why do we believe to talk about it in a public forum is wrong, when we say we believe Scripture and follow Jesus? Are we afraid of the shame? The shame of exposure? Maybe this is important, for the shame in itself might keep some from continuing in their sin as Paul writes about in 1 Cor 5: 9-13.
I do not have all the answers. Yet I do know this. God hates sin. It cost him his Son. Although the recipe seems extreme, this is what He has told us to do. Please help us Father to understand this and apply this gently and lovingly.