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If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matt 18:15-17).
“So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you (Luke 17:3-6).
Last week, I talked about how people share full responsibility in their relationships. It takes two people to forgive, and the responsibility is not half and half but whole and whole. This is something that I thought I’d expand on this week, because I think it’s an important point that is very easy to forget.
Imagine this: you are sitting at a traffic light. The light turns green for you. You can see a car coming from your right and it’s not stopping. What do you do?
I hope your answer is that you stay put.
“But I have the right of way!” you might protest. “It’s illegal for them to run that red light!” True! But you also see the danger of a collision. Are you going to say, “If they hit me, the responsibility is on them, because I have the right of way and they would be breaking the law. So I’m going to act on my rights and move forward!”
No, that’s stupid. For one, as your parents and drivers’ ed. teachers probably told you a million times, having the right of way won’t make you any less dead when that car T-bones you at fifty miles per hour. It won’t make them any less dead, either.
But also, having seen danger, you bear responsibility to keep catastrophe from happening. Having the right of way does not give you the right to willingly endanger your own and other people’s lives.
Yes, they would be at fault for running a red light and causing an accident. But if the police and/or the insurance company got the tiniest whiff that you saw them coming and pulled out anyway, you would be found at fault as well because you are now just as responsible for causing that accident.
This is the kind of car accident that takes two people.
Another example: I was out walking (playing Pokémon Go) at the park the other day, and there was a big crowd of people all walking and playing the game, too, in the same area. A bicyclist was riding his bike at high speed down the sidewalk and started yelling at everyone to pay attention and cursing at everyone. It was clear in his mind that, if he were to hit any of us, it’s our own fault for walking in front of his path.
Yes, if that had happened, that person would have borne fault for not paying attention. And this is making headlines everywhere as people are walking around and not paying attention (just like happened when cell phones first got popular years ago).
But that cyclist also bore responsibility. He was riding his bike at high speed through a crowded area. This was a park, not the middle of a road. The walkers had as much right to the sidewalk as he did. He was being reckless. Really, he should have either pedaled much more slowly, or even gotten off his bike and walked through the crowd. He had no cause to be as livid at everyone as he was—he could see a lot of people walking around, and even if everyone were paying one hundred percent attention to their surroundings, that’s still a bad environment to go biking through at high speed.
Responsibility isn’t always a neat “it’s all on that other person” sort of thing. In fact, it seldom is.
Most things between two people take two people. Jesus commands us to forgive and to love because humanity is divided, and only the love of God can unite us. Forgiveness and love, both of which come from God, are the only way we can be united as God intended us to be.
And you bear responsibility for mending those divisions. You don’t get to sit on your holy mountain and say you’re holy because you’ve cut yourself off from everyone else and none of them are trying to get up to your level. Only God is above; you aren’t. You’re on the same plane as all the other seven billion humans in the world, and if you are cut off from your fellow man, it’s your responsibility to reach out and try to mend those broken relationships.
So ask yourself: where are you saying “That’s not my problem?” Because it very well might be your problem, too. “The ball’s in their court.” It is, but maybe it’s also in yours as well.
What responsibilities are you neglecting?