How do I deal with another believer who has caused not a few people (including myself) hurt and who attends the same church? ... this person believes he/she is justified in their actions. ... How does God allow this person to get away with such things? anonymous
Excellent question. I love your questions because they are real questions of real things in your life and not just hypothetical situations of an intellectual nature. Thank you very much for that. :)
There are only two ways to deal with anybody: according to the flesh or according to the Spirit. Now what does that mean in your real-life scenario? Also, please take your time with this as I realize that I am giving you a huge chunk to chew on.
The fact is that you probably already find yourself going back and forth in trying to deal with this person and trying to ignore him, huh? After all, if God has forgiven this person then I should also, right? But then again, if this person keeps justifying his actions and keeps hurting people then shouldn't I do something about it? And your head is probably spinning from it all. If this happens to be hitting the nail on the head it won't be because I've been spying on your thought patterns. No, not at all. For you to ask this question presupposes that it's been bothering you and I just fill in the blanks from my own experiences. And amazingly I find that many others have been where I have been.
You stated in your letter that your relationship with this person has been mended ... but has it really? Could it simply be that the two of you just aren't involved in each others lives enough to let you know that the wound in your relationship is still there? That's called coping. I don't say that to make it sound like a bad thing, but to ask you if it could be the case.
How you are to deal with this person is the same as how you are to deal with yourself. How you are to deal with yourself is the same as how God deals with you. How God deals with you is based on the new creation He brought about in Christ.
Now, contrary to the common belief that grace means that we don't address such problems in each others lives is bogus, it is actually just the opposite. For the truth of the matter is that we have been brought into the reality where we can truly address what is REALLY going on. Everything we learned in this world, including and especially the religious world, never, ever dealt with reality, but with issues and formulas and illusions ... you know, surface stuff.
What I mean by that is simple. We learned to evaluate based on a performance standard (modified by our own likes or dislikes) and our way of dealing with one another has been in direct relation to how others rated by this standard. Their wrongness or rightness was determined by the standard. We ask the question, How does God allow a person to get away with such things?, based on the evaluation of our performance standard forgetting that according to such standards somebody is probably looking at us at the same time wondering the same thing about us. That is the ministry of law, which is condemnation. No, I'm not suggesting that we EXCUSE one another, for that is also one of the coping skills found in trying to live by law ... it's called loopholes.
In Christ, we were put to death ... and then raised up with him. No excuse for sin ... only death. Now look around you and realize this: God doesn't allow ANYONE to get away with sin. What do I expect from the flesh? The answer is the same as to What do I expect from a dead man? NOTHING.
Those who are not in Christ remain in death and the best they can do is to put a good face on the corpse. Those who have passed from death into life but who have been taught that they still need to approach life by living according to Christian principles will find themselves trying to patch up the old corpse they still imagine that they are. And they will act AS IF they are still sinners instead of living in the reality that they have been made new in Christ.
The natural, legal mindset of the flesh says, Deal with this person according to his sins! The life of Christ has already dealt with sins once and for all. If your friend is indeed alive to God and yet is trying to justify himself then your friend has fallen into the trap of law. The need we have to keep trying to justify ourselves is only brought about when we live as if under a standard of conduct, because such a standard leaves no room to rest until we think we are okay by it. As soon as we think we are okay by the standard then there is always someone who will come along and let you know that you are not. The law has convinced them that we do God's work by holding each other accountable for their sins.
Your friend fails because he is TRYING to achieve a good performance and the law-standard he tries to live by forces him to keep trying to justify himself because, in reality, he inwardly despises himself for doing it but cannot seem to get out of the trap and cannot tell anyone about it because he is afraid of the added condemnation from others.
Okay, are you finally ready for my long-awaited answer? :)
Brothers, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness, looking out for yourself lest you also be tempted. Galatians 6:1
When you see your brother caught up in breaking the rules you have the wherewithal to restore such a one. But you can give him no help at all unless you see that you are spiritual - of the Spirit. Trespassing is breaking commands. Breaking commands has to do with trying to live by law. Living by law is only for those don't have the Spirit. The real question here is: Do you mean my brother is failing because he believes that he must try to live according to the rules?
To restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness is not about the method you use, but it indicates the premise of the restoration. It refers to the miraculous life we have received from God. The message of law is the spirit of condemnation even when it is spoken gently. The message of life in Christ is the spirit of gentleness, because it is not condemning, even if it is spoken harshly.
Considering yourselves, lest you too be tempted. This has been taught as if Paul was telling you to watch out for the particular sin so that you don't get caught up in it. But this is not the case at all. A law-approach will do that because we usually recognize the sins of those who are struggling with the same sin we do. But what Paul was suggesting was this: I need to consider myself because of the natural reaction in dealing with those who are breaking the rules. It is on the basis of law. Simply this: "You have a problem and you need to deal with it!"
This natural reaction we refer to as accountability only reinforces my brother's law-breaking by causing him to try harder to stop his sinning because now both of us are putting him under the microscope! When I do this to my brother it has another effect. By ME focusing on HIS sin, I am automatically demanding that I focus on MY sin. Lest you too be tempted.
Remember, Paul's whole focus to the Galatians was that law only brings the knowledge of sin and condemnation, but in Christ we have been set free from condemnation and death and have been brought into the miraculous reality where the Spirit of God produces his works in us. His main point:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and DO NOT BE SUBJECT TO A YOKE OF SLAVERY. Galatians 5:1
If I think that God deals with me according to the freedom brought by Christ, and yet I deal with my brother as if he needs me to subject him to a yoke of slavery, then I am demanding that I must also be dealt with by this yoke of slavery.
Let the freedom of Christ shake those false perceptions you hold concerning your brother so that your spiritual eyes will see his situation for what it really is. Then, and only then, will you be of any help to him.