Sunday, 7 September 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Boble Readings

Saint Augustine of Hippo's comments on Jesus' instruction:

If someone has done you injury and you have suffered, what should be done? You have heard the answer already in today’s scripture: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” If you fail to do so, you are worse than he is. He has done someone harm, and by doing harm he has stricken himself with a grievous wound. Will you then completely disregard your brother’s wound? Will you simply watch him stumble and fall down? Will you disregard his predicament? If so, you are worse in your silence than he in his abuse. Therefore, when any one sins against us, let us take great care, but not merely for ourselves. For it is a glorious thing to forget injuries. Just set aside your own injury, but do not neglect your brother’s wound. Therefore “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone,” intent upon his amendment but sparing his sense of shame. For it might happen that through defensiveness he will begin to justify his sin, and so you will have inadvertently nudged him still closer toward the very behavior you desire to amend. Therefore “tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother,” because he might have been lost, had you not spoken with him. [Sermon 82.7] (source: here)

It seems to be Christian to leave people alone, to turn one's eyes from sin because it is not right to judge. This is not true. Is it not said, "Love the sinner, hate the sin"? How can we hate the sin if we let it pass without rebuke? Though Jesus did tell us to remove the plank from our eyes before we ask our brothers to let us remove the splinter from theirs, this does NOT mean that we ignore their sins. For their sins shame the community. Their sins doom them. To ignore their sins is to let them die.

When others do us injury, we should approach them and ask them why. It seems natural to either bury the hurt in our hearts and act as if nothing is wrong or go passive-aggressive with the offender. Neither is right. If the hurt is because of some misunderstanding, forgive and forget (but not before telling the offender how we are hurt; how would they know they have hurt us if we do not tell them?) If the hurt is done purposefully, tell them to stop. If they won't stop, time to refer to today's gospel reading and do as Jesus instructed.

"Treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector." What does this mean? The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as "unclean" by the religious-minded Jews of Jesus' day and thus were social outcasts. Christian brethren who are stubborn and obdurate offenders should be treated so. But this does not mean they are cut off from God's love. Remember that Jesus often had fellowship with tax-collectors, ate with them, and even praised them at times. Since Jesus refuses no one who is ready to receive pardon, healing, and restoration, we should be the same. If such brethren are ready to repent (and we should pray for this to happen) let them return to the community. Forgive them and forget their past offenses.

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