Forgiveness: Insiders and Outsiders

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17, NRSV

Is removing yourself from a relationship the same thing as demanding repayment?

In short, no, but it depends on the circumstances. The conversation about demanding repayment was all about what we do in relationships where we desire to maintain (or restore) some level of intimacy. These are "in community" relationships where both parties are trying to remain in community with each other. If, for instance, you're trying to remain in a marriage where a great harm has taken place, and you're trying to forgive, then it's important to pay attention to the ways in which you're emotionally withholding (or emotionally aggressive).

Now, let's say we're trying to stay in community, we do everything we can to avoid demanding repayment, and we see no remorse or change of behavior from the other person. I'm talking true remorse here- not lip service. Then, even though we're dealing with what once was an in-community relationship, it becomes an outside the community relationship because the terms of intimacy are damaged (not because we have been bad at forgiving!). Not only are the terms of intimacy damaged, but they're left to rot. No repair has taken place. This person becomes like a Gentile (see verse 17 above)- relationship is severed. You haven't chosen to make this person an outsider, they have chosen to live as an outsider. It is the voice of shame that makes us feel responsible for this. Resist it.

More tomorrow.