“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister.
-Matthew 18:15, CEB
This weekend, my pastor started a new sermon series called, “Courageous Christians.” I must admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt like a courageous Christian. Something happened in 2015 and it left me questioning my relationship with God. The incident caused me to question my ability to hear from God. I thought was doing the godly thing by handling a church conflict based on Matthew 18:15. Unfortunately, my actions were misinterpreted by church leadership and I stopped attending traditional church, even though I was in seminary. I had lost my courage because I thought I had let God down so badly that I couldn’t be redeemed and couldn’t be an effective minister in and for the body of Christ. Essentially, I was walking around like the cowardly lion.
In December 2016, God spoke to me while visiting my current church and told me to join. I had no intentions of doing so when I came. In fact, I missed the altar call because I was in overflow and because the introvert poured over the decision, citing the last time I was a church member. However, God kept on me and after church, I asked about how to join the next day if I were in overflow. The usher told me to hold on and immediately found a deacon to help me join the church that day. God knew I would have never set foot in that church again. I was just going because it was New Year’s Eve and felt convicted about missing church on that day. God also knew that I needed to heal and that my church was the place to do it.
Since being at my church, I’ve done a lot of healing and a lot of growing. But, on Saturday, when my pastor shared that he was going to be preaching on Matthew 18:15, my heart sank. I started having visions of the past. I could feel the vitiligo spots trying to find new places on my body. I was about to walk out, but I knew the sister sitting next to me, a prayer warrior, was not going to let that happen. We have been sitting together since we met in Financial Peace University and her presence is subtle, but powerful. By now, I know God well enough to know that nothing is random, including who I am sitting next to in church. Needless to say, I sat still as sweat poured and my heart did Olympic flips.
My pastor preached a sermon that vindicated me and affirmed that I was indeed correct in my intentions even though my execution may have been the issue. I correctly manifested the spirit of the law, but I was mistaken in the legalism that pervades some churches. In other words, I didn’t get the church politics part correct. I was doing the right thing, but not in the politically correct way. While my less than stellar execution of Matthew 18:15 caused me to miss out on an opportunity to be ordained in the denomination in which I was born, it also caused me to find the right church for me. While I gave up the legal entity of my denomination, I’ve the spirit of peace pervading my life. And, this spirit of peace has led me back to God and has given me confidence to live as a courageous Christian.
So, what’s your deal? What has you hiding out as the cowardly lion? Are you delaying a call to ministry? Are you delaying a career move? Are you delaying a conversation with God because you feel you have been too wrong to be right with God? Are you delaying a courageous conversation with someone else? What is your deal? No matter what, God wants you living on purpose, in peace and in fellowship with God. All you have to do is take one courageous step.