This Is How We Do It

I got e-mail from a church member recently telling me how disappointed she had been in the way I handled the vote on the 2011 budget at the end of the 8:30 worship service last Sunday.  She said, “You told everybody that it was a done deal, that we had already voted on it, and that we were just giving our affirmation to a previous decision.  You asked for a show of hands if we were for the budget, but not if we were against it.  It made me feel like I don’t really have a voice in the decisions that are made at First Baptist Church. “

I wrote back immediately, saying: “Please forgive me.  I was confused.  I thought we had already voted on the budget at our last quarterly business meeting, and that we didn’t really need to vote on Sunday.  Then I looked down at my bulletin and it said, ‘Vote on the Budget.’  So I asked people to raise their hands if they wanted to affirm the budget but didn’t give them a way to oppose it.  I blew it in almost every possible way at 8:30, but got it right at 11:00.  I’m very sorry.”

She wrote back to me and said:  “Thanks for the explanation.  That’s a very good explanation.”

The explanation of course is that I messed up.  I made a mistake.  I didn’t deprive her of her voice intentionally; I did it unintentionally.  But what she did was a perfect illustration of the sermon I had preached that morning.  I had said that if someone in the church does you wrong you should confront him, just as in says in Matthew 18:15: “If another member of the church sins against you, go to him and tell him his fault when it is just the two of you alone.  If he listens to you, you’ve won your brother back.” 

I wrote back to her, congratulating her on the way she had handled things.  “This is what you did,” I told her.  “I sinned against you.  You confronted me and made me aware of what I had done.  I listened to you, apologized for my mistake, and you forgave me.  That’s just what Jesus was talking about!  And,” I added, “I hope you’ve won your brother back” (smile).

“Absolutely!” she replied, and went on to tell me that she had appreciated the sermon very much, but after the vote she hadn’t been able to think about anything else.  Once we got that cleared up, we were free to move on to other things.

I wanted to share that story here, because it seems like a perfect illustration of how to make peace with someone who has offended you.  You don’t talk about that person: you talk to him.  You tell him what it was that offended you and why.  You give him a chance to explain, and perhaps even apologize.  If he does, then you forgive him and move on to other things. 

Doesn’t that seem like a better way than fuming about it quietly for days or even weeks, holding a grudge against the offending party until you can’t even stand the sight of him anymore?  Jesus understood: if you don’t go to your brother when he sins against you, if you don’t tell him his fault and give him a chance to apologize, then you lose your brother—not because of his feelings toward you but because of your feelings toward him. 

I don’t know about you, but I need all the brothers and sisters I can get these days, and for that reason I’m thankful that one of my sisters was brave enough to write to me and tell me my fault.  It’s not easy to hear such things, but believe me, it’s a whole lot better than not hearing them.

5 thoughts on “This Is How We Do It

  1. Jim,

    Thank you for sharing this with us. It indeed is a good example of how two people need to approach, and hopefully resolve, disagreement that have arisen between them. I wish all disagreements between individuals could be resolved so satisfactorily. Thank you for not only preaching about what we need to do in our relationships with one another, but also for living what you preach. As they say, it is important to not only talk the talk. We need to be able walk the walk as well.

  2. Last Sunday’s sermon, Matters of the Heart,was one of the best on the topic of loving one another. Forgiving also takes a lot of love, a lot of admitting that true, sincere love requires understanding. My Dad, also a tenor, used to sing the old hymn, “Nothing Between My Soul and the Savior”. Don’t believe it’s in the hymnal these days…but perhaps it should be. I am so glad you chose this sermon.

  3. When my wife and I came to First Baptist, back in the late ’70s, and for a long time thereafter, a lot of things at First Baptist pretty much were a “done deal” by the time the congregation ever got word of it. I remember even my wife’s and my membership, and the membership of others, back then, was not voted on, or “affirmed” by the congregation on Sundays, it was done in the old Fellowship Hall on Wednesdays after, as I understood it, approval by the church “powers that be”, so to speak(um, not referring to the excellent Media Minister David Powers, of course although he could, I guess, be regarded as a “Powers that be”, ha, ha ;>). At one point, I even found myself “stung” by the way things used to be at First Baptist, sad to say. Anyway, I found myself warmed and found healing in how you responded to the church member who contacted you. Jim, thank you so much for “pastoring” that good lady! You truly are the Senior PASTOR of First Baptist Church of Richmond, caring for the flock! May God bless you! May God bless you! AMEN!

  4. I would like permission to reprint your article in the “Hopewell News.” A newsletter of Hopewell Moravian Church. Circulation approximately 200.

    Thank you for your consideration….

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