Go To Them
The harshest discipline I remember receiving from my father growing up did not involve corporal punishment. I came home from a date (with Shirley, who is now my wife) a few minutes past my 11:00 pm curfew. I knew dad was both disappointed and not happy with me. He didn't yell or lecture. He just said, "I want your keys," and motioned toward the end table beside the couch. He didn't give them back until the second day after. Every time I walked past that end table for the next two days, it reminded me I had promised to be home, and then failed to keep my promise.
His discipline hurt. And it helped. I was never late coming home again. My dad disciplined me because he loved me, not because he hated me. He wanted me to be a man who kept my word. He wanted me to be dependable. He wouldn't have put it in these terms, but he wanted me to be holy.
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV)
In human relationships, we mirror the Father's love for each other, and when it's appropriate, we mirror His discipline. Because no matter how much we love, we sometimes rub against one another like sandpaper. Sometimes I rub Shirley raw. And sometimes she gets on my last nerve. Sometimes we fail to fully live as disciples of Jesus Christ, and we need God's discipline to bring us back to the center of His will.
So what do we do when someone has hurt or offended us, or when we have a brother or sister in Christ who is overtaken in a fault or sin?
The very sad, very human, very un-loving strategy we too-often employ is to say "It's none of my business" and avoid the other person. Sometimes we complain about them to others. Sometimes we gossip. But Jesus gives us a hard-to-practice strategy. Go to them.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-17 NIV)
Having been on both sides of an uncomfortable conversation like this, I know it's not easy to go to someone when they have disappointed or hurt me and talk to them about it directly. I also know it's not easy to be the one who has someone come to me and let me know I've somehow hurt or disappointed them. But the hard conversation is both necessary and loving. Yes. Loving.
When I love you enough, I will do what I can to overcome the sandpaper moments of life through conversation. And when I love you enough, I will gently but firmly hold your feet to the fire about something in your life that is out of control or ungodly. Always in love. Always in humility.
What I have found through these kinds of conversations is that often the hurt feelings in myself or in the other person are a result of some simple misunderstanding. And even when someone lost their cool and said something they shouldn't have, a simple, heartfelt apology, followed by an offer of real forgiveness heals the thing.
Again, it is the Biblical way to deal with hurts directly in love. The Apostle Paul says it this way: Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 NIV)
My dad loved me tenaciously. My Heavenly Father loves me even more. And as I follow Jesus, I have the opportunity over and over to love others well by going to them with any hurt or disappointment, and making peace the best I can. I recommend it!