I just had a brilliant thing happen. An old friend, after much thought, got in touch to say she thought I had done something insensitively and unhelpfully. She said it in such a kind way, for my encouragement and building up that I am quite inclined to believe her. Rebuke is so much easier to accept when it comes laden with care, sound counsel, and depth of prayerfulness.
For the life of me I can't recall doing what I clearly did (my lack of recall makes it more rather than less likely that I was guilty of it). Which means that I would never have the chance to repent or learn from it unless she pointed it out to me. There are two types of rebukes: those intended to tear down and make us despair, and those intended to build up and help us repent and be renewed in grace. This was firmly one of the latter. How else am I ever going to be helped with my weakness, sin and failure and blind spots without friends like this?
It took me back to a home group discussion several weeks ago. The discussion was about how easy or difficult it is to offer and to receive forgiveness among believers in a church. In our home group we all fervantly hoped that if someone came to us saying "you have done something I need to forgive you for" that we would receive it thankfully and well. But we have a sneaking suspicion that we might not, because we would all find it quite difficult to go to someone else and say that. We assume that they wouldn't receive it well. We decided that when we are teaching and learning about forgiveness we need to consider not only how to forgive, but also how to receive someone else who wants to forgive us - and who implicitly thinks we have offended or sinned against them, therefore.
If someone thinks I have offended or sinned against them, it is quite likely that I have, however inadvertantly. If they are brave and kind enough to come to me, it is essential to be brave enough to receive the overture with graciousness. Self-defensiveness is the best way to widen the breach. Speaking the truth in love is the way that the body builds itself up in love.
We ought to be desperate to outdo the whole world in our ability both to forgive and to repent and receive forgiveness.