We are all guilty of treating the Christian life like an elaborate accounting problem. Credit this, debit that, in our attempt to stay in balance with God and each other. It doesn’t help that we all have undergone vastly different accounting training. What I though was ten points in my good deed column, you put down only two because you perceived that I had selfish motives.
I know that I hurt your feelings last week but given how you’ve treated me recently, I think it’s a balanced account but you have me down twenty points because last week you weren’t feeling well and should be given a pass for anything done or said. There are none of us wise enough or lacking the sinful nature to untangle even one of these Gordian Knots. And we have a tangled knot with every human being on the planet that we are currently interacting with.
We think more highly of ourselves than we ought, crediting to ourselves the best motives and, on the best of days, being slightly suspicious of the other guy. We have long memories for our suffering at the hands of others and short ones for offenses we might be guilty of. The other guy thinks the same way and so we either submit to years of pastoral counseling, live in a state of perpetual warfare or embrace the fact that “Love will cover a multitude of sins.”
There are two sides to every sin, the victim and the perpetrator. Or, the reality is probably that there are two victims and two perpetrators. If we perceive that we are the victim, what steps do we take to love the sinner? We know that letting sin exist in the camp is deadly to us all so how do we “cover it” with love?
Choosing when not to confront someone takes as much wisdom as when choosing to do so. When we are brave enough to remove our feelings from a situation, does the sin before us merit a showdown or should we let it go? If we are thinking only of the other person and not our hurt selves, the picture becomes clearer. For their benefit, does their action harm them, could it potentially harm others?
I suspect that most of the sins we perceive as having been inflicted against us are misunderstandings, lack of communication, a moment of weakness, a loose word. If we give the other person all the understanding we can muster, what truly is the offense? That’s what we need to discern. If there is room for the argument that the person might not have even known they were offense, we should let love cover that. If it was a moment out of character to who we know them to be, we should let love over that. If it’s possible that we are being a little too sensitive, we should let love cover that.
Removing ourselves from the equation is the key and thinking of the good of the “sinner.” Once we do that, once we seek only their good in the situation, then there are probably lots of things that get covered and only a few that truly need confronting. Of course the confronting needs to happen when it’s merited, there’s no doubt about that. For the sake of the sinner, for the sake of the body of Christ, sin must be removed from the camp.
We certainly need to pray for wisdom to discern these matters. Not only are they tricky, but sometimes require quick judgments and swift action.