“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Often a drowning man has to be rendered unconscious before he can be saved. Otherwise, his frightened flailing and desperate clinging can drown the rescuer as well. So too, entering into a dispute with one who has a bitter grievance against another is often nothing more than an invitation to drown with the victim. Even if your intention is to make a rescue and affect a reconciliation, it cannot always be done immediately, and even risking proximity to the offended one can cause you to get entangled in their grievance and go under in the same troubled waters.

Sometimes, the offended party must grow weary of trying to stay afloat on the bitter barge of their resentments before it is safe to risk a rescue. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews warned, “looking carefully…lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled,” (Hebrews 12:15). It’s better to steer clear of offense, and even those offended, until God can perform a work of grace in their hearts. If he has you approach to render aid, do so carefully, keeping yourself humbly aware of the all-too-human propensity to get oneself entangled in other’s offenses. One bitter person can sink a ship load of people whose only mistake is getting too close and entering into the offense of the one who’s going under.

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