I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but Jesus didn’t give us a lot of rules to live by. His teachings were usually centered on attitudes, concepts of living, and compassion for those around us. That’s probably why Christians differ on so many peripheral topics. There’s no set rule for them.
There are some exceptions to that, however. In Matthew 18, there’s a powerful passage where Jesus lays down the law (so to speak). He tells his listeners to go in private if you have a problem with someone. It’s really good advice and would also pass for common sense—even if it wasn’t Biblical.
“Air your grievances…”
If someone does something that offends you, go to him in person, let him know what you’re thinking, and air your grievances against him. Jesus goes on to say, if that doesn’t work, bring one or two other folks with you the next time in order to convince the offender of the error of his ways. If that doesn’t bear fruit, widen the circle of witnesses. As the circle continues to broaden, eventually everyone will be in the know and will be able to minister to the offending brother.
This seems to be good, sound, obvious advice. Unfortunately, it can also be time consuming and a lot of trouble. I’m pretty sure Jesus knew that when he laid it out for us. If you think about it, going that route can save a lot of problems—like mistakenly accusing someone or crudely returning one offense for another.
Another problem with this process is forgiveness and repentance. If the offending brother immediately recognizes the error of his ways, asks for forgiveness, and repents, we have nothing left to hang over his head. If we forgive him, we necessarily forfeit our holier-than-thou attitude (if we had one). What’s the fun in that?
21st Century FB Christians
I dare say, most Christians know that passage (or at least understand the concept). Still, many Christians forego this teaching and jump immediately to the last step (which is basically to air these things in public). This is especially true of we twenty-first century, Facebook Christians. It’s easy to post something condemning your offending brother. Who needs those first few steps? The answer is simply, “We do.”
The strange part about this is that it’s so easy to follow Jesus’ rule here. Facebook gives us this awesome tool named Messenger. On Messenger, we can immediately speak directly to people in private. The implications for someone attempting to live a life of Christian discipleship are obvious. It’s one of the easiest avenues for living out Matthew 18.
If a brother offends you, Message him in private. We do it in all sorts of other circumstances. Why wouldn’t we do it in these instances? My guess is, for the most part, it would only take one quick message to get your point across. Your brother would correct his error (or sin, or offense), and we could all go home.
Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg (or whoever invented Messenger).
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]