(Jesus said) "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
Halloween has come and gone. Even so I can't help but remember a woman in Fargo, North Dakota, who decided she would give "moderately obese" trick-or-treaters a letter instead of candy.
In that letter she encouraged the children's parents to be responsible in helping their young ones to stay fit and ready for life. At the end of the story, which was reported by USA Today, there was a chance for people to post their opinion about what the woman was proposing.
Those remarks were not pretty. The woman was berated, belittled and verbally chastised.
As for me, I think the lady had managed to get a lot of things right.
For example, I think she was right in her desire to help these children. Her letter was caring and compassionate rather than being cruel and callous. She was right in offering encouragement to the parents, and she was right in acting on her conscience.
Having said all that, I think there was a key component missing in her plan.
The one needful thing which was missing is this: the lady failed to act personally and privately. Instead, she adopted a course of action which could easily cause embarrassment to the very people she was trying to help.
It is a common mistake ... and one which the Savior asked us to avoid.
When Jesus was talking about how we should handle those who sin against us, He told us to "go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone."
Our Savior knew that when we immediately go public with a sin or a problem we often end up hurting rather than helping. The person who is at fault rightly feels he has been singled out and has been trapped in a corner. Unfortunately, he also feels he must defend his past actions, no matter how wrong, foolish or dangerous those deeds might have been.
That is not the outcome we want to bring about.
Those of us who have been forgiven by the Savior's sacrifice and have been given hope by His resurrection, wish nothing more than to reclaim those who have strayed. To that end we do all we can to give an individual the opportunity to see their error and reverse their action.
If our lady had taken the time to visit with these parents privately and share her concerns personally, she might have avoided the criticism and some of the children might have been helped.
It is a lesson which I must remember in the future, and which you might want to recall the next time your concern and conscience compel you to reach out to someone whom you think needs to be corrected.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, bless those who care and give them the desire to act in a way that is pleasing to You and beneficial to others. This I ask in the Name of the Savior whose entire life showed me how to love. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries