Sometimes Jesus gets my attention by the words he does not use. This is the case in Mathew 18:15, the classic Bible passage on confronting those who have wronged us. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15 ESV)
The word, tell, is a word that is translated “rebuke” in other places in the New Testament. Interestingly, Jesus could have used one of two Greek words to express his thoughts. The word he did not use is epitimao. Epitimao signifies a rebuke that does not lead to a result.
Years ago we had a dachshund appropriately named, Oscar. Oscar had free reign of the house. There was one place, however, were his paws were not allowed to tread—that was our bedroom. He could come up to the doorway, he could look in, but he could not cross the threshold. The master bedroom was sacred ground in my book.
Occasionally Oscar strayed into this forbidden zone. When he did I would rebuke him: “Oscar, get out of this room!” Immediately he would tuck his tail between his legs and slither out—for about ten seconds! Then he was back again. The rebuke did not lead to any permanent change in his little doggy heart. It was a rebuke without a result. That is the word Jesus did not use in the verse above.
The word Jesus did use was elegcho. Elegcho carried the idea of conviction; a rebuke that leads to a change. It was a word that was used to describe the convincing argument of an attorney. Going back to my puppy analogy, if I had rebuked (elegcho) Oscar he would have left my room and stayed out.
When Jesus told us to confront the person who has wronged us he said, tell him (elegcho) his fault. In other words, tell it like it is. Be very clear about what hurt you or offended you. Make your case! Spell it out! Be honest!
I like the phrase, “Share the last 10%!” Too often we tell 90% of what is on our hearts, but we hold back on the last 10%, the part that is hard to tell and hurts to hear. When we shy away from sharing the tough words, we never identify the root causes of our frustration. The result? Our relationships are never as rich as we would like them to be.
Has someone offended you? Are you holding a grudge? Do you have some concerns that need to be voiced? Jesus’ way is clear: Go to the person. Be honest. Share the last 10%.
STAY FOCUSED TODAY:Write “10%” on a post-it-note today as a reminder to handle confrontation Jesus' way: with loving honesty. Go in a spirit of reconciliation with the intention of building a stronger friendship.
Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Volume Three, Treasures, page 70-71.