John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 56

*Praying Before Conflict

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”

Matthew 18:15 NKJV

The most literal way of following this first rule above is the best. If you yourself see or hear a fellow Christian commit undeniable sin—so that it is impossible for you to doubt the fact, then your part is plain. Take the first opportunity of going to him and tell him of his fault between the two of you.

Great care must be taken that this is done in a right spirit and a right manner. The success of a reproof greatly depends on the spirit in which it is given. Pray earnestly that it may be done in a lowly spirit and a meek one. For a person cannot otherwise be restored than in a spirit of meekness (see Galatians 6:1).

See also that the manner in which you speak is according to the gospel of Christ. Avoid everything in look, gesture, tone of voice that savors of pride or self-sufficiency; anything dogmatic or arrogant; anything approaching disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With equal care, avoid all appearance of anger; railing accusation; any shadow of ill will, bitterness, or sourness of expression. Use the air and language of sweetness as well as gentleness, that all may appear to flow from the love in your heart. Yet this sweetness need not hinder your speaking in the most serious and solemn manner. As far as possible, use the very words of the holy Word of God, as under the eye of Him who is coming to judge the living and the dead.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

In this fifty-sixth lesson on prayer, Wesley brings up a topic most people tend to avoid like the Covid-19 virus: confrontation. Although there are several scriptures that encourage, even command, we confront sin, our human tendency is to play it safe, let it slide, or let someone else do it. None of these ways of dealing with sin helps the perpetrator or the one impacted by the sin.

Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” But what constitutes sin against “me”? Wesley says above “If you yourself see or hear a fellow Christian commit undeniable sin—so that it is impossible for you to doubt the fact, then your part is plain. Take the first opportunity of going to him and tell him of his fault between the two of you.”

So I get from this that if the sin is personally against me, against my conscience, or against the body of Christ, of which the person who sinned is also a member, that I am obligated to go to that person. So, if I see someone in town, I know is a Christian, obviously very drunk and making a scene, I am obligated to go to them and inquire of their soul, both for their good and the good of the body. And also for my own good, to discharge my duty toward God.

But, as Wesley also says, prayer should be the first step in approaching your brother. We need pray for discernment, grace, love, and proper motive before we approach someone. We want the first encounter to succeed, because “if he listens to you, you have won your brother” (Matthew 18:15b NASB). This is the ideal situation. As Wesley says, “Great care must be taken that this is done in a right spirit and a right manner. The success of a reproof greatly depends on the spirit in which it is given. Pray earnestly that it may be done in a lowly spirit and a meek one. For a person cannot otherwise be restored than in a spirit of meekness.”

In Galatians 6:1-2, the apostle Paul tells us, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Wesley continues, “Use the air and language of sweetness as well as gentleness, that all may appear to flow from the love in your heart. Yet this sweetness need not hinder your speaking in the most serious and solemn manner. As far as possible, use the very words of the holy Word of God, as under the eye of Him who is coming to judge the living and the dead.”

If our initial meeting is not successful, Matthew 18:16-17 gives further instruction. “16But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17If 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.” This is certainly not the outcome we are after.

Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: