Matthew 18:15 “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.”
Growing up, we were taught defensiveness. This was unintentional, but nonetheless a fundamental cornerstone of our upbringing. When a blatant sin or personal slight were brought to the attention of the offending party, no matter how much love was used to highlight the issue, the result would never be a grateful and humble acceptance of an opportunity to become a better person. On the contrary, this would become an out-of-proportion occasion to point fingers, lay blame, and question motives. Naturally, one defends oneself when attacked. The more guilty one feels the more defensive one becomes when the guilt is pointed out. So the offender would lash out, predictably.
But making the person who has been hurt by your actions, or who is concerned for your soul, feel as though they, in fact, are at fault in some way, is a low blow indeed, and lacking in grace.
The person who had the courage to speak up and plead for change now begins to doubt their motives. “I care about this person enough to raise this issue with them. Perhaps they care about me enough to do the same, and perhaps these things they are accusing me of are true. Could that be my motive? Could I have done that?” The offendee becomes confused, bewildered and then angry. “Wait a minute! I know I’m innocent!” The cycle of defensiveness begins again, this time with the accuser becoming the accusee, and both parties defending their thoughts, actions, and motives. More hurt ensues.
The thing about becoming defensive is that it makes you look guilty. It really doesn’t matter what the facts are, because it’s a lot like running away from the police. Even if you know they’re going to frame you and make it look like you’re a baddie, if you run away, everyone will believe it’s true, that you really are the villain.
What I am learning at the moment is that there is dignity to be had in our position in Christ.
Rev. 12:10 “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.”
Rom. 5:1 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
The principles of God’s Word remain true regardless of our circumstances. If we are right, and we have honestly searched our hearts and the scriptures, confessing whatever is revealed to us and repenting, begging and pleading to be transformed by the Word of God in us, then we can humbly and lovingly approach a brother or sister in Christ and appeal to them not to taint the name of the Lord. Sinful actions will never go unpunished, as Paul tells us:
Gal. 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
But we can show our love for the brother caught in sin by appealing to him to repent and seek God’s help, the way out He promises to provide. We can offer our support, love and care.
We may not be well received, and Matthew 18 tells us what to do next.
16 “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.
17 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.”
This is a serious thing and we may be accused of all sorts of selfish motives, but the key is to remember that once we have confessed and repented, we are innocent. Not better than anyone else. Simply free from condemnation. And so it is best not to engage in self defence but to leave your defence to the Lord. He really does have your best interests in heart. Rather assume the mantle of dignity that comes from being justified through our Lord, and win them over with your quiet demeanour and gentleness.
1 Pet. 3:1b-2 “… they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”