Monday, June 4, 2012

Answer to a Question

What do you do when someone sins against you but will not acknowledge it?  Someone asked me this recently and this was my answer:

Dear friend,

I do believe that God at times brings a number of difficult things together in our lives when he is about to do something deep and good.  Have you ever heard the prayer of Puritan Samuel Rutherford?

"Lord, cut,
Lord, carve,
Lord, wound,
Lord, do anything
that may perfect
Thy Father's image in us
and make us meet for glory."

It is a hard prayer.  I have prayed it more than once.   It shows a heart more ready to be purified than comfortable.   And that, of course, is uncomfortable.

If I were you, I hope I would begin by thanking the Lord for the trials.   Perfume is only extracted by crushing the petals of the flowers.

Secondly I would ask God to search my heart, to try my thoughts to see if there is any wicked way in me.  (Ps. 139)   We are all much worse than we think, and Christ said that we could not even accurately see the faults of others until we had opened ourselves to God's searching eye upon our own sin.  I once prayed those verses from Psalm 139 for one month, and God was very faithful to show me sin that I never knew I had.   It was healing to own it and confess it.

Next I would pray for clarity about what is sin on the part of my neighbor. Sometimes we have misjudged or judged without charity.

I have recently been reading Jonathan Edwards's Charity and Its Fruits.  It is worth its weight in gold --and more.  Though I have not finished it yet, what I have read has provided conviction of sin and a deeper desire for godliness.  I would highly recommend it.   

Here is what Edwards says about censoriousness:
"....censoriousness judging evil of others when evidence does not oblige to it, or in thinking ill of them when the case very well allows for thinking well of them; when those things that seem to be in their favor are overlooked, and only those that are against them are regarded, and when the latter are magnified, and too great stress is laid on them."

If we conclude that we have indeed been sinned against, then we should pray for God to help us to be long-suffering.    Let me quote Edwards again:

"He, therefore, who exercises a Christian long-suffering toward his neighbor, will bear the injuries received from him without revenging or retaliating, either by injurious deeds or bitter words.  He will bear it without doing anything against his neighbor that shall manifest the spirit of resentment, without speaking to him or of him with vengeful words, and without allowing a vengeful spirit in his heart or manifesting it in his behavior.  He will receive all with a calm,undisturbed countenance, and with a soul full of meekness, quietness and goodness.  This he will manifest in all of his behavior to the one who has injured him, whether to his face or behind his back.... We should not cease to love our neighbor because he has injured us.  We may pity him for it, but not hate him for it.... The duty we are speaking of also implies that in many cases, when we are injured, we should be willing to suffer much in our interests and feelings for the sake of peace, rather than do what we have opportunity, and perhaps the right to do in defending ourselves."

This does not mean that rebuke is never in order.  And neither do we need to gush over this neighbor as if they were a long-lost friend.    

Isn't this amazing stuff?  I think it would greatly benefit you to read and perhaps journal  though Edwards.  Another book that comes to mind is Mute Christian Under the Rod  ($5.00 at Reformation Heritage Books).  It is a book on how to benefit from trials in our lives.

Let me know if this helps at all.  If you have more specific questions, shoot me an email or give me a jingle.

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