Personal Trespasses

Sometimes one person will get their feelings hurt by the comments or actions of another person in the church.  Often that person will harbor bad feelings or unforgiveness toward the offending party.  This should never be.  The Lord told us in Matthew 18:15-17 how to deal with personal trespasses from fellow church members. 

Before we consider this passage however, we should ask ourselves, did the other person really trespass against me?  Sometimes the problem lies with myself.  Did I take offense of the other person because I was wearing my feelings on my sleeve?  Or did I take offense because I was tired and irritable and misunderstood what the other person meant.  Probably most of the time the offending party never intended or knew that he/she was offending by their comment/action to another member of the church.

Once I have determined that I believe I really have reason to be offended, then according to the commandment of our Lord and Saviour I am to go and tell the offending church member his/her fault between myself and him/her alone.  That means that I am not to tell any one else about it, until I have followed thru with the steps outlined in Matt. 18:15-17.  Too often much havoc is wrought in the church because church members rebel against this commandment of the Lord.  When I go to the offending church member I should go humbly and not piously accusing the offending member, but simply laying out what was said and why it hurt my feelings.  Probably, the vast majority of the time that will be enough to bring about the desired result and restored fellowship. 

However, if the offending party doesn’t hear me, then I am to take one or two more church members so that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  Now when I go to these “one or two more” I am not to lay out my case to them so as to poison their mind toward the offending member, but simply tell them that I and the offending member have a problem that we need their help with. Once in the presence of the offending member then I can state my case and also the other party can state their case.  Then the other members present can give their advice to the two members.   Usually this will be enough to resolve the few times it ever reaches this stage. 

Very rarely, after the first two steps have been taken, then the problem will have to be taken to the church and addressed by the church.

Dear brothers and sisters, this means of solving personal offenses isn’t just a “it sure would be nice if you did things this way,” but it is essential that we follow the commandment of our Lord in this matter.  Sometimes members of the church will just stop going to church because their feelings were hurt by some comment or action of a fellow church member.  To do so is a reproach to the wisdom of our Lord and rebellion against HIS word.   One of the most poisonous things that we can do to ourselves is to harbor hard feelings toward our fellow church members.  This can eat at us and take away our peace for years, if unchecked.

Failure to follow the above commandment of our Lord in dealing with personal trespasses of our fellow church members has been one of the most hurtful things to the cause of Christ in a local church.  Let us deal truthfully and faithfully with the commandments of our Lord and Saviour and manifest our love toward our fellow church members by taking good heed to Matt. 18:15-17.

Elder Vernon Johnson