How to Respond to Destructive Behavior
Luke 17:3 If your brother sins, rebuke him…
I am confident that my natural response to the sin or destructive behavior of others is almost always defective. I either get angry and judgmental (act aggressively), I ignore it (act passively) or I find indirect ways to express my displeasure (act passive aggressively).
Jesus, in this passage, tells us that there is a proper response to our fellow believer when he or she sins. Previously, Jesus said that we are not to judge others (Luke 6:37) and that we are not to point out the speck in another’s eye when we have a log in our own eye. What then, does He mean that we are to rebuke our brother if He sins? What is my responsibility when I see those around me engaging in destructive behavior?
As I said, I do not do this well, so, I find it helpful to look back on my own life experiences of doing it wrong. I have, in self-righteous indignation, gone to pastors and arrogantly told them how they were leading their flock astray. I have been rude, angry and judgmental, hitting others over the head (figuratively) with my bible.
I have also ignored many a defect. It is simply far easier to ignore destructive behavior if it does not directly affect me. It is a messy, uncomfortable thing to address defect so I prefer just to ignore it. I have, in my selfishness, watched a brother tear his life apart while saying nothing. I do not know that I could have stopped it, but I did not even whisper a sound as I did not want to get involved.
Then, there is my passive aggressive behavior. I lack the courage to directly address an issue but neither can I let it go, so I make indirect attempts to display my offense. I give the cold shoulder. I make sarcastic comments. I do what I can to sabotage the relationship without ever actually addressing the issue that needs to be addressed.
How then do we address the destruction in those around us? Jesus tells us that there is an appropriate response. We are not to be judgmental but neither are we to ignore it. When those around us engage in destructive behavior, we are to address it. We are to acknowledge that destructive behavior is indeed destructive. We are not called to be the police of our fellow believers, but neither are we to stand by as they travel down a road of devastation.
The best example I have of this is from my own life. When my own destructive behavior came to light, I tried to get two brothers to cover for me. They did not. They sat me down and told me they loved me but they could not stand by and watch or aid me in my destruction. They told me the only way out was to address my destruction and face the consequences. They were not condescending. They were not judgmental. They just plainly acknowledged that my destructive behavior was indeed destructive.
Why is this so difficult to do appropriately? It is difficult because it is simply not our nature to be appropriately assertive as Jesus commanded. It is our nature to judge, ignore or manipulate. Just as it takes effort to take my eyes off self and turn to God, it takes purposeful effort to turn from my natural response and follow Jesus’ response.