“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9, NIV 1984).
We were belly-punched by the outcry. Our goal had been one of redemption but the announcement we had published was one of exclusion. A group of students on campus felt rejected and diminished when we announced a ministry to them. It was all in the wording, not in the intent. What could we do to make it right?
Unfortunately, even we Christians hurt people sometime. Most of the time it is like this campus situation, unintended harm due to carelessness. Other times, we, in our human nature, strike out and injure intentionally, and then we come to regret it. And then sometimes, we are right in our actions, but people in their sinful nature are hurt by truth that cannot be silenced.
Whatever the cause, when we hurt someone, as followers of Christ, we want to manage that hurt with God’s great love. How do we do that?
Our incident suggests a number of obvious steps toward reconciliation with those who were hurt.
1. Prevention: We need to keep a tight rein on our tongues (James 1:26). There needs to be intentionality in watching for and holding back hurtful words and actions when possible.
2. Discovery: Sometimes as in this incident, the injured strike out and our mistake is obvious. This is not always the case. When people are silently hurting, Christians who are privy to that pain should notify the ones who caused the suffering.
3. Acknowledgement: When we have hurt someone, we need to acknowledge that we caused the pain. We must not let our pride prevent us from seeing our wrong and admitting it.
4. Apology: If the hurt is private, we must apologize in private. If the hurt is public, we must apologize in private but also to all who are aware of the pain we caused. In apologizing, though, we must not apologize for truth—only the way in which we may have abused it.
5. Fix the damage: If there is damage caused by our actions, we should seek to fix that damage at whatever cost.
6. Corrective planning: We must learn from the pain we cause and develop a plan to keep the same mistake from happening again.
7. Witness: We must let Jesus live through our lives in the entire process. Those who are hurt are also hurters. They have been where we are. They have seen non-Christians hurt others as well. They will be drawn to our Lord when they see Him working through our lives in humility and love.
Please protect me from turning people away from you by my actions. When I do so, live through me to correct my failure.Amen.