The first passage in today’s post is from the Gospel of Matthew:
15 “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. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 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. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
I chose this passages for two reasons.
The first is that my paper copy of the Bible has “against you” in brackets because it isn’t present in some of the oldest existing bibles. This has a rather profound effect on the nature of the passage, it it shifts it from how to approach being sinned against to how to rebuke/correct a fellow believer who grievously errs.
The second has to do with correction being behind the scenes at first. This is an important concept, especially within a family. One thing that I can look back upon now and realize is that my parents were very good about keeping any disagreements between them out of earshot of the children. Only once did I ever really hear them vehemently disagree, and that ended quickly. I remember being very disturbed by that one instance. And that was a relatively short and mundane back-and-forth between my parents compared to what I’ve seen between other married couples. I can only imagine the negative effect it would have on children to see repeated instances of parents arguing, especially vehemently.
Since I’m on the topic of family another passage comes to mind from the Book of Sirach:
10 Do not glorify yourself by dishonoring your father,
for your father’s dishonor is no glory to you.
11 For a man’s glory comes from honoring his father,
and it is a disgrace for children not to respect their mother.
12 O son, help your father in his old age,
and do not grieve him as long as he lives;
13 even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance;
in all your strength do not despise him.
14 For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
and against your sins it will be credited to you;
15 in the day of your affliction it will be remembered in your favor;
as frost in fair weather, your sins will melt away.
This passage came to mind because of a recent event in my life. I visited a great-aunt whom I hadn’t seen for some time, and while a good visit it was difficult. Her memory and mind is failing, badly. It was very discomforting for me to see her in such a state, and I imagine it is even worse for those closer to me. This reminded me of several of my past co-workers who had to care for their parents who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s. All of us, if we are blessed enough to live that long, will suffer the indignities of age. It is important for us to honor our elders who suffer so, especially our parents. They gave us life, and demonstrated patience and understanding when we were young and couldn’t really take care of ourselves. We owe them a great debt, and can at the least show similar patience and understanding when they can no longer take care of themselves.
The last few verses, which I believe I’ve mentioned before in this series, come from the Letter of James:
12 Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; 14 but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Something I’ve heard from (mostly female) Churchians before is that the failure of their marriage (or one of them, anyways) was meant by God as a means of growth for them. The passage above makes clear the lies they utter. God does not want us to sin. He does not tempt us. When sin happens, it is because of our own faults and failings, and not for any other reason.