ell, the e-mail in-box certainly has been filled to overflowing here lately at The Doctor’s World Headquarters. You know, The Doctor thinks it’s really neat that so many nice people send him e-mails that offer to help him get out of debt fast, make lots of money, and buy stuff at really, really good prices. Anyway, a few Bible questions have actually found their way into The Doctor’s mailbox recently and -what a coincidence!- here’s one now…
How is a Christian supposed to respond to another Christian that repeatedly does things to cause offense? Am I wrong to say no if I have an article or possession they would like to use?
Well, The Doctor believes that there are a few things to think about when deciding what to do in a situation like this. Some of those things might include…
- The kind of offensive things that the person has done
- The spiritual maturity of the person responsible for causing the problems
- If the person is clearly aware that s/he is causing problems, yet still continues to do so anyway
In other words, circumstances often play a big part in deciding what to do in situations like this. If offense is pretty small, you might do well to just continue to overlook it. This kind of situation is illustrated by something Paul the Apostle wrote in Philippians 1:14-18…
“And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here seem to have lost their fear of chains! Somehow my patience has encouraged them, and they have become more and more bold in telling others about Christ. Some, of course, are preaching the Good News because they are jealous of the way God has used me. They want reputations as fearless preachers!
But others have purer motives, preaching because they love me, for they know that the Lord has brought me here to use me to defend the Truth. And some preach to make me jealous, thinking that their success will add to my sorrows here in jail! But whatever their motive for doing it, the fact remains that the Good News about Christ is being preached, and I am glad.”
In this situation Paul was able to overlook these offenses because in the end, it really didn’t matter- people were still hearing the word of God regardless of the motivation. Perhaps you could take on a similar attitude in your situation. Remember, Proverbs 19:11 tells us, “A wise man restrains his anger and overlooks insults. This is to his credit.”
Of course, if person involved isn’t a Christian then you have to think about that too. For example, if you are known as Christian at school or on the job then you should definitely be aware that people who don’t share your views may go out of their way to do offensive things to you just to see if your “Christianity” is really real. This may be why the Bible gives us warnings like these…
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders…” (Colossians 4:5 NIV).
“I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
We should also remember our own attitudes when dealing with someone who has offended us, especially when it is a fellow Christian who has done the wrong…
“Dear brothers, if a Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help him back onto the right path, remembering that next time it might be one of you who is in the wrong. Share each other’s troubles and problems, and so obey our Lord’s command” (Galatians 6:1-2).
I believe that I have done everything to keep the peace but it has gotten to the point that I honestly don't care to even see this person, although I am always courteous and respectful when I do.
Well, Romans 12:18 does tell us this: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (NIV). This seems to imply that it is not always possible to live in peace with everyone. Because of this, The Doctor believes that it can be OK to respectfully but firmly correct someone who shows no desire to change unhealthy behaviors that are causing problems with others so that everyone can peacefully coexist.
If the person involved is a Christian, Matthew 18:15-17 tells us what to do…
“If a brother sins against you, go to him privately and confront him with his fault. If he listens and confesses it, you have won back a brother. But if not, then take one or two others with you and go back to him again, proving everything you say by these witnesses. If he still refuses to listen, then take your case to the church, and if the church’s verdict favors you, but he won’t accept it, then the church should excommunicate him” (Matthew 18:15-17).
As a last resort, the Bible teaches that it is sometimes right to stop having friendships with people who continue to knowingly do things that cause conflict, disagreements and friction between themselves and others…
“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (Romans 16:17 NIV).
“If anyone is causing divisions among you, he should be given a first and second warning. After that have nothing more to do with him, for such a person has a wrong sense of values. He is sinning, and he knows it” (Titus 3:10-11).
The Doctor notes that you also said, "Am I wrong to say no if I have an article or possession they would like to use?" Perhaps this means that you are dealing with someone who has not returned items that were borrowed from you or has returned them in bad condition. In such a situation, you might point out that the Bible calls people who do such things “wicked”…
“The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously” (Psalm 37:21 NIV).
So what’s the right answer? Well, while it’s always tempting to respond in anger towards the person who has done us wrong, However, The Doctor believes that love should be the ultimate deciding factor when deciding what to do in situations like this. You see, 2 Corinthians 5:14 tells us that “…the love of Christ compels us…” and this means that love should always be the motivating factor in deciding what to do, especially in a situation where someone is causing problems.
This is because love always seeks what is best for everyone involved. The people and circumstances may change but the response should always be motivated by this question: What is in the best interests of everyone who is involved?
For example, it may be right to end a friendship with someone who needs to understand how serious it is to continually cause disagreements, conflict and division with others in the church. Hopefully the person who is causing the problems will then see the need to change their behavior and the friendship can start back up again.
On the other hand, it may be that continued loving acceptance of someone in spite of their repeated offenses is the greatest demonstration of love. Both can be supported by Scripture depending on the circumstances. The Doctor trusts that God will help you and guide you as you prayerfully think about what is best.
Finally, don’t forget the words of 1 Peter 4:8…
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (NIV).
Do you have a question for The Doctor? Just send it to the email address above- you’ll get a personal reply and you just might see it answered here.