Christian Excuses: I need to vent
It has been said that excuses are just lies we tell ourselves to avoid taking responsibility for our actions. This Christian excuse (like all of the others) is a thinly veiled sin. We disguise or normalize our disobedience to convince the world that it is justified and normal. The truth is, obeying Jesus’ commands is easy…until it isn’t.
“Venting” is, of course, never mentioned in the Bible. But gossiping and slander are. Since both gossiping and slander are frowned upon, we spruce it up and normalize destructive behavior by slapping a less threatening name on it. “I just had to get this off my chest. You will understand if I vent for a moment, won’t you?” That translates to: “I know it is wrong to speak about this person like this, but I just can’t help myself.”
You can wrap it up in pretty paper and tie a bow on it, but it is still destructive to you and the person you are talking about.
We will inevitably get our feelings hurt from time to time. It is impossible to avoid the deep pain of a harsh word in this life. But why is it that we prefer to seek out uninvolved people instead of the person who has offended us in moments like that? We take an unfortunate incident and make it worse by dragging others into it.
Is it our fear of confrontation? Or perhaps, a desire to prove to others that we are right and they are wrong?
There is no room for excuses here. The simple truth is, that slander, and gossip (aka venting) demonstrate that we care more for our image than we do about unity within the church. As we strive to protect what people think of us, we damage what people think about our brother/sister.
Stop Making excuses…there is another way.
Jesus gives us simple instructions (4-steps) about addressing these issues. (Matthew 18:15–17)
First, If your brother has offended or sinned against you, go to him privately to address the issue. If they hear you, you have won them over, and all is well with the world.
The interesting thing here is that Jesus’ instructions fly in the face of our cultural norms. When we are wronged, our desire is for the offender to recognize their wrongs and apologize to us, the offended.
But Jesus commands the offended to approach the offender to let them know that their actions were hurtful. This requires humility and a deep love of the church. Only a person who desires unity is capable of such an act.
When we avoid these instructions, it is typically because we want/need to be perceived as the victim to give us the moral advantage in the eyes of others. People rarely follow Jesus’ instructions because it has more social benefit to portray ourselves as victims and others as oppressors.
But when we follow Jesus’ instruction, we find that the offense was often accidental and easily cleared up in most cases. Reconciliation is the outcome, and we have pleased God with our courageous love of his family.
In those rare cases where things do not go well, Jesus gives further instructions. Take one or two others along to address the issue again.
Notice that he did not say, go and talk to one or two people about how terrible your nemesis is. He says to take them to the person so that there can be mediation and truth.
When we vent, we are prone to exaggeration because the person is not there to defend themselves or refute our story. That is why Jesus’ instructions are so important to follow. Unlike us, Jesus’ ultimate goal is reconciliation, not retribution.
Again, if this step does not bring a conclusion to the matter, Jesus instructs us to bring the issue before the church. The goal here is twofold, 1) let all things be brought to the light and 2) Let the overwhelming voice of the church attempt to convince the offending person to make things right. If this does not happen, Jesus gives one last instruction.
He says, “The church must treat them as an unbeliever.” But what does that mean? Are we supposed to shun them and run them out of town?
In the early church, this action had two clear implications. First, they were no longer allowed to assemble in their church gathering with the believers. Because, in the first century, the church service was only for believers.
Secondly, the church members were to change tactics with the unrepentant offender. Because they have shown a callused heart and refused to make things right, they need to hear the gospel. The congregation members should love the offender and share the gospel with them until they can have a change of heart because they are not walking in the way of Christ.
Jesus knew that His people would be prone to venting, and he knew how destructive it would be to the church. That is why he gave us detailed instructions on what to do when we have been wronged.
So let’s set aside our pride and do things His way for the sake of the church and our own mental health.
The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. (Proverbs 15:2 NIV)