In the house of God, Christians must learn to remember the identity of their brothers and sisters, humbly pray for their brothers and sisters, lovingly cover the sin of their brothers and sisters, and privately confront their brothers and sisters. As we do, we will see God’s grace healing and sustaining our relationships in ways that the world will never experience.
As the culture war rages on, there is another battle raging to which we must turn our attention. When I was a boy, my dad would sometimes tell me, “No one will hurt you so much as others in the church.” In my lifetime, this has generally proven to be true. Believers sometimes experience the greatest hurt in their relationships with other professing believers in the church at large.
When a professing believer hurts our feelings or reputation, how should we respond? Should we, in turn, demean that individual by telling others (whether privately or publicly), “I can’t stand him,” or “she’s such a mess” or “I’m not even sure that he or she is a Christian.” To our shame, most of us are guilty of having responded in such sinful ways. When someone hurts us, the instinct of our flesh is to hurt them back.
Thankfully, God does not leave us to our fleshly instincts to learn how to respond. Instead, He instructs us in very specific ways about how we should respond when someone does us harm. By virtue of our union with Christ—in His death and resurrection—we can learn to put the following into practice:
1. Remember the spiritual identity of the offending brother or sister.
The Scriptures differentiate between the children of God and unbelievers. Everyone who is united to Christ by faith has been adopted into God’s family. None of us deserves to be adopted into God’s family. It is the height of the spiritual blessings that God has conferred on us by grace. When we sin against others in the body, or when they sin against us, we are sinning against one of God’s beloved sons or daughters.
We are to view all professing believers as our brothers and sisters in Christ—as members of “the whole family in heaven and earth” (Eph. 3:14). Our actions are to accord with what we believe about the doctrine of adoption. If we are brothers and sisters in Christ, then we should “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10), and we ought never “speak evil of one another” (James 4:11). If we viewed each other according to the doctrine of adoption, it would radically change the way that we respond when a brother or sister hurts us.