As the situation continues to spiral out of control and also in the comments section of the Unity post has people arguing back and forth what is Christian behavior, I’m going to share about my experience with a similar situation.
Prior to writing that series, I struggled heavily with a situation over a 5 months period where I had greatly offended someone. It was a constant process of struggle between God and myself about what I should do about it. I didn’t want to apologize and admit that I may have hurt that person because I hadn’t really done anything wrong — the other person had misinterpreted my remarks.
The situation ended up devolving into a negative spiral like I am currently seeing now. I commented about how I was right and I didn’t mean something like that. Then the other person got angry with me and criticized me. I didn’t take the criticism well and became more defensive and lashed back against that person. Then the person lashed back against me. We continued into the spiral for a while ignoring each other at different places where we met up with groups.
I knew it was unhealthy for me. I was angry. I was hurt. I was bitter about the whole situation. I could see the same thing in the other person. They were angry. They were hurt. They were bitter. We wanted nothing to do with each other, and even though no one else in the group(s) may have noticed it was interfering with our faith in God. It was interfering with the fellowship of believers even if we believed it wasn’t.
Coming to the place of grace and mercy
Over the past month before I wrote the apologies series (so ~4 months after the first instance), God was able to show me that of which my pride was interfering with my ability to care more about the other person than my own personal want to be right about the situation. I struggled and struggled against it. The other person was not willing to even make an attempt to lift a finger to right the situation and was even going so far as to act to make it worse. I didn’t want to be the one to take the first step.
A couple of days before I started on the apologies series it took me multiples hours to think about how to apologize now that I decided to apologize. I kept thinking and writing down what I wanted to say and the rewriting it.
This was because I kept wanting to say that the other person did something wrong or misinterpreted what I said. They were doing something sinful against God. By continuing to allow the situation to devolve into that hot mess they were not doing what was right. And by and large it was true. They were in sin too.
However, this is one of the true contexts of what Jesus said about judging:
Matthew 7:1“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and [a]by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how [b]can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Right now, in this situation, each side is going back and forth about how the other person is a liar and a manipulator and vile. Yet, they can’t see the plank in their own eye. They are doing the same thing to each other with accusations and vitriolic comments. They say they want to forgive, repent and reconcile, but they don’t do it in a manner worthy of Christ.
The place that God brought me to was that what the other person did wrong doesn’t matter. It is they that have to come to a place between God and themselves to apologize and you can’t make them. If you mention what they did wrong they’re more likely to think your apology isn’t sincere and it will destroy the relationship further even though you’re there to apologize!
Thus, the apology needs to be all about you and your mistakes only. This is what is meant by taking the plank out of your own eye. By taking out this plank without mentioning the speck, that is a powerful witness.
In my apology, I started with the encounter that it happened. I explained why I felt what I felt and why I wrong in doing that. I apologized for all of the nasty remarks that I said. I went to the next encounter and apologized for those remarks. I continued doing this for every encounter including my sins of omission — my lack of initiative to do what Jesus called me to do in Scripture which was to become right myself with my brothers and sisters in Christ. To forgive as God has forgiven me. To love and pray for others even when they hurt me.
Not once did I mention anything that the other person did. I didn’t mention any of their sins. I didn’t call them out on why they said what they said. I didn’t ask them why they didn’t take the initiative to make things right. I only focused on what I did.
And you know what? The other person accepted my apology. I didn’t expect it, but they did. I was able to take the plank out of my own eye. This allowed God to work in my heart to bring me to a place of peace and joy as opposed to holding onto the anger, hurt, and bitterness.
What they didn’t do was apologize to me for their actions. And that’s OK. That’s up to them and God.
Yes, it is my place as a Christian to call them out for their sins via Matthew 18, but I understand at this point in time that what matters more to God is grace, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. If I go back and revisit recent past hurts and anger quickly is that going to allow our relationship in Christ to rebuild and thrive?Likely not.
Sometimes the best way is to set the example, even if the other person does not respond in a Christian manner. God may have to bring them to a similar place first before they are able to apologize themselves. You don’t know what His timing is. Perhaps they may never apologize. That’s OK too because the apology is not all about them but also about you and youre relationship with God.
That is the hardest part. To admit only your mistakes and apologize for them and not talk about how they other person may or may not have done something wrong. They may even hate you more for it. Such is is the strong temptation of wanting to accuse others and lay blame at their feet even if it was justified.
When I talk about how the apology is not about the other person I not joking in the slightest. Although being right with the other person is important because we are to dwell in unity with believers, it is quintessential that you be right with God. As I wrote in Apologies Part 2, the apology that you make is not just to the person whom you wronged by lashing out at. It is also part of your reconciliation with God.
The apology is part of your admission to God that you are a sinner. You sinned. You messed up. You made a mistake such that you worsened a situation creating dissension and strife even if the initial encounter(s) were right. You have come to a place of humility such that the anger you have, the bitterness you have, the hurt that you have you will admit to both the other person and Jesus that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness. This allows God to work in your heart in order to transform you through His grace and mercy.
As the manosphere has talked about in regard to marriage, the hardest time for a wife to be submissive is when she feels like she shouldn’t. The hardest time for a wife to be submissive is when she adamantly disagrees with a husband’s decision. The hardest time for a husband to love his wife is when she is in a state of rebellion against him and God. This destroys the unity within the marriage and often leads toward a downward spiral into divorce. And yet, the Scriptural commands are quite clear.
The advice we give in the manosphere to the men about Godly/self improvement is true — it’s not about the other person… it’s about you. You are the only person you can change, and you are supposed to reflect God if you call yourself a Christian. It’s very difficult to think outside of yourself and your hurt and your anger at women, churchianity, society, and even family, but that is the power of God within us. He allows us to do things that are impossible for humans.
Likewise, if you can’t imagine yourself apologizing, repenting, having mercy and grace, and reconciling with the other person that’s true. You can’t do it alone. It is only God in you that can work what we as humans deem impossible. Cry out to God for help to assist you do the right thing.
You always have a choice: Will you do what God wants you to do, or will you do what you want to do?
This being an Easter post, here’s a good song about turning away from sin to Christ: