Lingering

First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:24b

Lingering over coffee with a friend is a relaxing thing to do.

Lingering with the Lord in prayer is refreshing, spiritually.

Lingering as we cuddle a child leaves both feeling loved.

Lingering after church to talk with someone is an act of kindness.

But, lingering to approach someone we have a complaint against is just making matters worse.

Problems that remain unaddressed, “in the dark,” grow. Problems that are hit head on, “brought to light,” do not grow. This does not mean they will end well, but at least they will be exposed.

It seems that the longer a problem stays hidden, unspoken even though it is festering inside of one or two people, it either grows in our mind, or it allows someone to continue to do something that increases the problem. These are not times to linger.

The Bible gives us three steps in Matthew 18:15 about how to approach people who have sinned against us:  (#1 )“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (#2) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (#3)  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector, (Matthew 18:15-18).”

What I love most about this approach – other than the fact that it is God’s instruction – is that it allows for a one-on-one conversation that may correct either party before anyone else is involved. In our sinful nature, we may make an accusation that is wrong. Perhaps we misunderstood the person’s motive or it was just truly not about “me.”

God’s way offers opportunity to let it all go before anyone else even knows.

There is another warning from Christ in Matthew 7 that tells us to get the log out of our own eye before we deal with the speck in our brother’s eye. Prayer is a necessary part of any confrontation between brothers and/or sisters in the Lord.

It is easy to expect repentance from another when we have not examined our own hearts, so we can approach them with a humble attitude.

There have been so many major problems between brothers and sisters in the Lord, that, if they had been addressed immediately, could have been completely avoided. But, even with these experiences behind us, we still seek our own comfort in the moment, rather than the long-term improvement that comes when we do not linger over the wrong things.

Linger over coffee, with the Lord, and holding your babies. But, if there is something that needs to be said for future peace in relationships, to expose a sin, or accomplish the work of the Lord, do not linger, speak up.

 

 

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