Dealing with hurt is difficult. Dealing with hurt from those you once trusted is even worse.
My guess is that through the arguments the disciples had been having among themselves about who was the greatest, there was hurt between them. Jesus knew this, and that’s why he gave him the instruction we see in this passage.
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (15)
Notice two things here. First, if someone hurts you, you are not to wait for that person to come to you and apologize to you. You are to go to them.
Often times we are so angry at the other person, that we demand that they come to us and apologize for what they did. But that kind of attitude is not one of peace, but of pride. And God calls us to be peacemakers. Remember that in the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
That doesn’t just mean bringing peace between others that you know. It means bringing peace in your own relationships. But if there’s one thing that will prevent peace in a relationship, it’s pride.
Furthermore, there are many times when people hurt us, and they don’t know it. As a result, we could wait forever, and they’ll never come. So Jesus says, if someone hurts you, you go to them.
Second, notice that there’s no room for gossip or slander here. Jesus doesn’t say, “If your brother hurts you, go tell the world about it.” He says, “Go to the brother that hurt you and talk about it.”
And hopefully, when they understand the hurt they’ve caused you, they will apologize and your relationship will be restored.
A key point, by the way. If someone confronts you like this, remember that what’s not important is if you feel your words or actions should have hurt them. What’s important is that your words or actions did hurt them. And it’s on you not only to apologize, but to make sure you avoid such actions in the future. That’s also what it means to be a peacemaker.
But what if you confront a person who hurts you, and they refuse to acknowledge their wrong? Then Jesus says bring one or two other people with you. Share with them what happened. Not to gossip or badmouth the other person. But with the hope that with their help, reconciliation will happen. It’s entirely possible that with their counsel, you realize that you are simply misunderstanding the other person. Or perhaps with their help, the other person will come to understand they were wrong. Either way, remember the goal of bringing in these people is peace.
If a person still refuses to hear you, then bring in the church. You don’t have to bring in the whole congregation. But perhaps bring in a pastor or another respected person of the church, and have them try to mediate.
But if that fails, Jesus says,
Treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (17)
What does that mean? Basically, it means to change your expectations of them. Don’t expect them to act like a brother or sister in Christ, because they are not acting that way. Treat them as an unbeliever who doesn’t know Christ. We don’t expect unbelievers to act like believers, and if a person refuses to repent, we should stop expecting them to act like a believer. Keep your guard up against them. Don’t fool yourself into thinking they’ve changed until they repent, and you see signs of that repentance.
And if at all possible, try to avoid them, much as people avoided tax collectors in those days. Why? Because you’re bitter? Because you’re angry? No. You need to let go of those feelings because they will bind you up. Rather, avoid the other person because they are dangerous to you. As long as they can’t see their own wrong, you’re always in danger of being hurt by them. So avoid them.
How about you? How are you dealing with the people who have hurt you?