Updated: Mar 3
One of the hardest lessons I've been asked to learn is how not to respond sinfully when someone sins against me. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Easy," right? Well, even though we may easily avoid overtly sinning (back) against the person, what about the sin of subtle judgment? I've found this to be a bit of a challenge when the person who wronged me is a fellow believer, one who knows better in every way but refuses to do better. It's especially challenging when you can't understand why they did what they did (sometimes repeatedly), when they refuse to recognize it as wrong, and why the Holy Spirit isn't convicting them? 😵💫 🥴 Worse still, what if they acknowledge it but refuse to do anything different?! Ouch. All sorts of thoughts begin to creep in, and we subtly begin to levy judgments against the person.
To address this issue we have to distinguish between sinful behavior and immaturity. We ask, "is the committed action sin or the result of immaturity?" If sin, the Bible makes our path clear; approach them privately in love, first. Next, bring one or two witnesses, and ultimately, if necessary, bring the matter before the church (Matthew 18:16). On the other hand, if it's a matter of immaturity, we should ask, "How does the Bible instruct us to respond to the immaturity of other believers?
Let's be clear. There are several places where Scripture exhorts the believer to be mature; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2;14:20, Galatians 4:1-3, Ephesians 4:14, Hebrews 5:11-13. However, I have found that immaturity is, at the very least, an inconvenience and, at most, a disservice to the Christ. Jesus wants us to grow in maturity, and immaturity is part of that journey - although it is intended to be the beginning, not the end. We have to be clear that when a believer refuses to mature, it isn't sinning (though it may be the cause of sin). So, how should we respond when another believer wrongs us in immaturity?
First, we have to acknowledge our responsibility to serve the other person. We serve the other primarily by being an example (1 Timothy 4:12, Philippians 3:15). Doing the mature thing, the right thing, is the best way to teach others how to do the right thing. Too simple, you say? Well, consider that the Bible says, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." We are called to imitate what was observed in Jesus. And, we should imitate what we observe in mature believers. As Paul said, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Secondly, we can serve the other person by lifting them in prayer. One of the biggest realizations one can have as a pastor and counselor is that to be of service to others, they must acknowledge that they have problems, troubles, and challenges and agree that you can offer answers and solutions. Without that agreement, they won't receive anything you share. Yet, beginning in prayer is the best course of action, whether this is the case. Ultimately, God leads believers into maturity through the Holy Spirit, and if we are blessed, he may choose to use us in that process. Lastly, while Scripture asks "those who are mature" to lead others out of immaturity (Philippians 3:15), the truth is that not everyone is interested in growth. Therefore, the best way to handle the wounds of an immature believer is by yourself becoming a mature believer. We have to sit before Jesus when others wrong us, seek healing, and ask for the love and strength to forgive them and live the way Jesus did, laying down his life for those who do not always respond lovingly.
Therefore, the best way to handle the wounds of an immature believer is by yourself becoming a mature believer.
Indeed it is God's plan for the Church to grow in "unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God" and to "mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ." As we grow in maturity in Christ, we learn to be long-suffering toward those who are immature, serve them in setting an example, and lift them in prayer and loving them as Christ - in humility.