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Over at Judaism.SE, there's a question: How should we respond to objectionable content in a public forum? It got me thinking, how should we apply Jesus' teaching on reconciliation:

“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)

Sometimes, we are in a public forum with someone who is our brother or sister in Christ, and they say or do something that hurts us or is a sin against us. When in person or when a private communication channel is provided (e.g., Facebook, email, and many internet forums), it's easy enough to take them aside. But what should we do where there is no way to initiate a private conversation with a fellow Christian?

Obviously, this very site is an example of where this might come up. But I'm not making it a meta-question since it's really a question about how Christians should behave in any public forum. And of course, it must be an ecumenical position since, unless the forum happens to be specific to a particular branch of Christianity, the other person might come from any faith tradition (or none at all). How do we love those who sin against us in strictly public places?

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My inclination would be to just let it go if it's a one-time or incidental hurt. However, I would not hesitate to respond to a cyber-stalker publicly. –  Gilbert Le Blanc Feb 22 '12 at 16:03
    
It is not wise to give any kind of stalker attention. –  Sȱɳɨȼ Ʈħe ǶḝÐɠḝħȱɠ Feb 24 '12 at 1:31
    
By publish, do you mean public? –  TRiG Jan 25 '13 at 20:51
    
@TRiG: Well, that's an interesting slip-up. I doubt I would have ever noticed it myself, so thanks! –  Jon Ericson Jan 26 '13 at 0:31

1 Answer 1

Whether a person hurts our feelings is a different matter than whether that person has sinned against us. For example, my doctor might tell me I am overweight. In that case, my doctor would be acting lovingly toward me. If my feelings are hurt, then I am the one with the hard heart in that example.

Therefore my counsel is to be especially careful in asking for repentence from someone who has hurt your feelings.

Otherwise, my thought is that there is always a way to ask for private communication. It may be the case that private communication cannot be accomplished immediately, so you may have to employ patience. Suppose, for example that you are in a huge auditorium and a public speaker bears false witness against you (that being a sin from Exodus 20-23, the Ten Commandments and their sentencing rules).

I don't think you should stand up in that public forum and proclaim, "I would like to speak with you privately!" Entertaining the thought of that action leads one to think it might be inappropriate per the instructions from Matthew 18:15. If you agree, you might instead contact the public speaker by postal mail, waiting many days to receive any reply. You won't get the pleasure of an immediate retraction, and you may therefore have to suffer embarrassment during your period of patiently reaching out to the public speaker. That seems OK.

On this SE, you could ask a person to contact you using the comment system, with a message along the lines of, "Brother, I would like to email with you privately concerning something you've written here. Would you please email me at xxx -at- yyy.zzz?"

I would suggest that you then exchange phone numbers and not use email to settle your difference.

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