Have you ever tried to convey a message from your heart, only to have your words mistaken for something entirely different from your original intent? It can be extremely frustrating. Many times, the recipient doesn’t know the tone and may have preconceived ideas for the message, therefore any words used can get twisted and cause pain. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to explain myself, only to have my words misconstrued and the intent lost.
For example, I had wronged two people in the past with hurtful words, and after prayerful consideration and wanting to bridge the gap, I attempted to make things right by apologizing. My attempts at having a face-to-face apology went to the wayside as neither party was willing to meet, so I used email as my choice of communication. I wanted to handle the situation in a Christlike manner, but it backfired in my face. My words of apology were laughed at, only to have both people use my words against me, and make themselves out to be the victims of hateful speech.
So now what? How do I correct this kind of wrong? How do I deal with the rejection when I’m trying to do the right thing? I want to be understood, yet neither party is allowing me the time or the space to make things right. What do believers do in these types of instances? What if the recipient doesn’t allow me to apologize? What then?
Matthew 5:22-24 helped to answer my question. It was also quite surprising that in my NIV translation, the heading for this passage is MURDER. Wow, I didn’t physically hurt anyone, right? They were just words. But as I read on, the beginning of this passage in Matthew states how we have been told that murder brings about judgement. God, however, says even anger against a brother brings judgement. Whoa…back up the train…just anger? Same as murder? Yikes! This is a lot to comprehend.
Whether or not the offense was brought on by someone else and my response was retaliation, or if I was the one to provoke a situation, the purpose behind going to the one you’ve offended, is to be reconciled to God. The offender has committed an offense by their words, and in order to be reconciled to God, they must take care of business, so to speak, with the person they’ve created distance between, so that there is nothing separating you from God.
You may be reading this and saying, “That’s great, Grace, but we don’t have to do burnt offerings to be acceptable to God anymore. Jesus did His work on the cross and we’re good now.”
I say, “Nay.”
I think this passage is a reminder that God knows us best. First Samuel 16:7 states that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the inside of our hearts, and if we think we can just run into His presence with our good intentions while hurting those around us, we’re sadly mistaken. Believers represent our risen Lord and we need to walk in the Spirit.
Social media has increased our routes of communication. It’s so easy to put emotions and feelings into words and throw them out into the world wide web. But what do you do when they hurt people? What do you do when you’re slandered and you feel the need to defend yourself? Should we retaliate, or turn the other cheek? This, being a Christian blog, hopes to show you the obvious. That cheek should be readily available.
Something else I’ve learned from the passage in Matthew is that the act of approaching and seeking forgiveness from the person you’ve offended should be done in private and the reason being is to keep both parties from creating more animosity and hurt. When offenses are gossiped about and spread to others, it creates judgement in the hearts of people who are only hearing one side. By addressing an offense between just the two of you, you can control the situation and come to a safe and responsible conclusion that breeds acceptance and love.
What, though, do you do when the parties don’t want to hear the apology and aren’t ready to receive? You pray. You continue to talk with your Heavenly Father, knowing your heart is in the right place, that you are remorseful and ready to change the behavior that caused the offense in the first place, and ask for His intervention in the matter. He sees all. He knows our hearts, remember?
My words of advice to others (and especially myself) is that if you don’t have anything nice to say (even if it’s not spoken), keep it to yourself. Ask God to make you aware of your thoughts and words. If you are consistently speaking horribly of others, your heart needs to be re-evaluated. Deal with the root of your anger. Why are you attacking others with words? What can you do differently to not speak harshly of others? And do you gossip so that others will agree with you? Why do you need public affirmation? How can you deal with an offense differently in the future?
We’re all prone to sin. We were conceived in it and unfortunately in this life, cannot escape it. But God does promise us restoration, and He loves submissive hearts that turn to Him for guidance and are truly repentant. Pray that He will restore the relationship. If it takes time, wait for it, and continue to let God change you from the inside out. Being reconciled to God means that we aren’t allowing anything to stand in the way of our relationship with Christ. It means we are aware of our sin, are addressing it, and have taken the proper steps to continue to walk in His Spirit. We can’t always please people, but we can be aware of our offenses that separate us from God, and that’s not a place we should want to be.
Ask for forgiveness from God when you’ve dealt with some situations in a manner that doesn’t represent His Son well, and ask for solutions to your heartache. God is constantly at work in us, when we accept Him, and He is willing and able to show us our sin and is even more delighted when we turn from it to mirror the life of His Son. Know that your attempts are not futile, but that God sees the steps you’ve taken. Whether or not the other party forgives right away, you have been obedient and it doesn’t go unnoticed.
I will not be discouraged, and I will be more cognizant of the way I treat others in thought, word and deed. Where I am wrong, I pray God continues to work in me, so that I can better represent His Son who loves me and forgives me. Please pray for my heart to continue to be changed through Christ. Rejection hurts, but who knows that better than Jesus?