Forgiveness and “Two or Three Witnesses”

There’s an interesting text in Matthew 18:

15 “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. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

I have been editing Ervin Budiselić’s doctoral dissertation; Ervin is professor and academic dean at Biblijski institut.

In his treatment of this passage, Ervin asks a great question:  What are the witnesses witnessing to?

They do NOT appear to be “witnesses for the prosecution,” witnesses to the original offense.  They don’t need to have any knowledge of the offense for them to function as witnesses?  To my thinking, that means that they are NOT witnesses to the offense.

So what are they witnessing to?

They are witnessing to the attempt at restoration.

What this communicates to me is that the restoration is more important than the offense.  The restoration is the thing.

When someone sins against you, it is natural and human for you to want them to confess the horrible thing that they have done, to agree with you fully regarding the damage they have done to you, etc.  BUT WE SELDOM GET THAT KIND OF SATISFACTION.  If we insist on getting it before we forgive, we probably won’t be doing much forgiving.

So make the restoration your focus, not the offense.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be honest about how you feel, etc., but don’t be surprised or offended if the person who has sinned against you has a different memory of events, etc.  Say your peace, let the witnesses hear and validate it (even if the person who has offended never does), and then focus on restoration.

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