If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
During our weekly lectionary discussion group, after reading Matthew 18, Leah Pack questioned the group in attendance about whether or not any of us has had an experience of someone from the church confronting us in order to point out our faults. After all, pointing out the faults of a fellow church member is something Jesus charged his disciples to do. While the group pondered particular moments from their church lives, I shared with them one of my experiences.
I had been helping serve at a church in Birmingham, Michigan for most of the summer. My responsibilities included visiting the hospitals, preaching, teaching, leading worship, and regular committee attendance. It was a particularly rewarding summer for me, and helped me identify my own strengths and weaknesses for ministry. Throughout my internship I met with the Seminary Committee who helped to provide the necessary information for my journey and offer advice and feedback regarding my work. On my last evening in Birmingham the committee shared their final evaluations for the summer and wished me well on my ministerial journey; the group was incredibly gracious and kind with their reflections.
As we prepared to leave the church that night one of the older gentlemen from the committee asked to speak with me privately before we left. “You are so full of it,” he began, “I watched you all summer long, and you might’ve fooled everyone else but you can’t fool me. You are one of the most arrogant and self-righteous young men I have ever met.” And with that he left me alone in the room; his words piercing deep in my soul.
I learned later that the man had a very difficult time watching a young person speak with such confidence from the pulpit on a regular basis and that, for him, was a sign of arrogance. Nevertheless, his words have stayed with me ever since that particular evening a few summers ago. Though I may not completely agree with him regarding his judgment of my faults, it was helpful (though painful) to hear him speak his mind. It has helped me to be mindful of the ways I come off as a pastor to others in ways than I could not previously imagine.
One of the highest callings of discipleship is a willingness to confront others when they are at fault. However it is important to remember that we are not called to judge them, but instead speak the truth in love about ways others have wronged us, and how we can reconcile broken relationships.
How have you confronted others who have faulted you? Has anyone pointed out your faults? Let us be truthful people who are kind with our words and courageous in our faith.