One of my dermatology clients recently fired his office manager. Although his manager was very intelligent and performed his job with aplomb, there was an edginess to his style. He was cocky, often rude to my staff and his brusqueness extended to me as well. On more than one occasion, he not so subtly questioned my expertise. I responded by biting my lip, restraining my urge to defend myself and chastise his audacity. This dermatologist would often publicly praise his manager and out of respect for my relationship with the dermatologist, I never brought up these episodes. But whenever I or my staff heard these accolades, our eyes would roll.
Thus it was some surprise that a few weeks ago, our laboratory learned that this office manager had been fired. Through a series of emails and phone conversations, I learned that several patients and vendors had complained about the manager’s rudeness to them. I didn’t want to appear as though I was piling on but I also disclosed to the dermatologist that this manager had exhibited similar bad behaviors to myself and my staff.
Exasperated, he questioned me, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“You always spoke so highly of him,” carefully choosing my words. “I didn’t want to offend you. I knew how much you depended upon him.”
Miffed, he replied, “I wish you told me about all of this. I could have avoided a lot of problems that I am now facing.”
Yes, I should have told him. I was torn between my loyalty to my dermatologist and my perceived loyalty that he had with his office manager. I did not want to create a problem in his office if everything appeared to be operating smoothly. In hindsight, this was clearly the wrong decision.
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. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV)
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to hold one another accountable before God. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the steps that we should follow when a fellow church member sins against another. The directive is clear with a definite chain of command. Egregious behaviors, such as theft or physical assault, can and should be immediately dealt with by the local church. But what about seemingly lesser bad behaviors? While we should aspire to address all active and potential conflicts, bringing some of these issues to light may be viewed by some in the church as petty or even hypocritical. If ignored or buried, these behaviors may continue and foment strife, increasing uneasiness between church members. I definitely struggle with this issue. Like the dermatology office manager, there are sometimes more shades of gray than one would like to acknowledge. And at the heart of my own reluctance is the uneasy feeling that others may be feeling the same way about me. First take the log out of your own eye! Indeed.
Why didn’t you tell me this before?
Only when I hold my sins and those of others before the light of God’s Word will I have the spiritual discernment that I need to deal with all interpersonal conflicts. It is not easy, but shades of gray are what God transforms into black and white.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.