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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. Matthew 18:15 (NIV)

It is to the glory of God to redeem, to restore, to reconcile with bruised reeds. It is to His glory that we are the instruments He uses to speak into their lives. Speaking to someone so they will listen is what following Jesus is all about. And I don’t mean ‘listen’ as in, “Hey, you big idiot, listen up!” When Jesus talked with people, he spoke to catch their heart.

Matthew’s narrative records what Jesus taught his inner twelve about restoration and forgiveness. These things are not an option for his followers. The reason he came into the world was to redeem people from the mess they had made due to their rebellion against the Father’s reign over them. Those who made up his church are to look like him, act like him and define church life not in terms of the world, but the kingdom. In the world, those who offend are either thrown under the bus or avoided like the plague. In the kingdom, the shepherd leaves his sheep to find the lost one. The father eagerly throws a fabulous party to welcome home his prodigal. Wanting bruised reeds to come home, to recover, is the hallmark of Jesus’ kingdom.

Pointing out the sin of a brother or sister is not a ‘gotcha’ moment. It is, undoubtedly, a tough task. It takes love to motivate us within to desire to make them listen and win them over. You notice that Jesus said getting them to listen is how you win.

Listen to what?

  • Listen to why what they have done is out of step with God’s glory.
  • Listen to why what they have done is damaging to themselves as much as it is to Jesus’ church—to you as their sibling in the faith.
  • Listen to where their broken life decisions will lead them if they stay on the pathway they’re on.

Even the most messed up bruised reed in your life is worth the life of Jesus to God. Have they been offensive? Have they stepped over the line? Are they unrepentant? Have you yourself been in their line of fire?

Consider these questions.

  • Would you trust Jesus enough to follow his lead on this and speak truth in love to a bruised reed instead of breaking them—or being content that someone else broke them?
  • Would you choose to love them as a brother or sister?
  • Would you put in the effort to see them restored?
  • Would you grieve for them if they will not be restored, since Jesus is not saying that every confrontation will end in a successful restoration?

I grieve over people I have counseled about this who made it clear this was a non-starter for them. They thought they had the right to be angry and condemn that person. Talk like that means we think we know better than Jesus how his disciples should handle their response to bruised reeds.

This is all about the glory of God. We, empowered by the Spirit, go to the messed up person and talk to them in a way that draws them back in.

What can happen when people do this? Several blogs ago I talked about Bill Hybel and imputed power. How believers hold back speaking into the lives of another because the person is deemed too powerful. Power in this world is all imputed, i.e. given by God instead of innate.

Consider how believers handled another pastor I know whose church rivals the size of Willow Creek. God had used him to raise up a church that was seeing thousands come to faith. Yet his personal life started to disintegrate to the point that leaders around him recognized he was a bruised reed. So what did they do?

As they met one night, one of them said to the rest, “Our meeting tonight is to celebrate what God has done this far and to determine if our pastor is the right person to lead us going forward.” That caught his attention. They spoke directly to his brokenness, encouraging him, warning him, that they would be fine without him, but were willing to see him restored before he damaged his family, the church, himself.

His degrees meant nothing at that moment. His amazing speaking ability meant nothing. His years of dedication meant nothing. What emphatically mattered to them was his spiritual health. And he listened to them. He pursued spiritual health with God. Today, he remains the right person to lead them forward—not as a reprieve, but as a gift from those who were willing to confront him when he was a bruised reed.

-Steve Smith