“If your brother sins against you…” Matthew 18:15 (ESV)
I had been abused, sinned against. My abuser convinced me that I was responsible whenever he sinned against me. I lived weighted down by guilt. I always thought I should be smarter or better prepared, so I would examine myself constantly (often by unhealthy introspection). I would pray and study, trying to figure out ways to prevent being sinned against. I truly believed I should have control over the situation. The fact that I couldn’t change things left me feeling awkward, uncomfortable and sad.
Recently, I learned a simple, but extremely valuable lesson. People can sin against you even if you are doing everything to the best of your ability. And their sin is their responsibility, as I learned at work the other day.
One of our young cashiers was doing her job to the best of her ability. She was kind and helpful to the customers. She checked them out and bagged their merchandise. She did her best for them. One of the women took the cart and pushed it towards the door while the other one messed around with her wallet.
The lady who was pretending to pay stalled long enough for the other woman to work her way to the door with the merchandise. When the woman at the register scanned her card, payment was denied. She scanned it again. It was denied again. This woman scanned a few more cards. All were denied. In the meantime, the other woman had loaded everything in her car. The woman in the store said, “I have to go to the car and get some cash, these cards won’t work.” She left. They had run out without paying.
The manager was called. I came to encourage the young cashier. She was very upset and crying. The manager was trying to find out what went wrong and how we could have prevented this from happening. The cashier kept saying she was sorry. When I finally had a chance to talk with the cashier, I realized she had done her best. She had trusted that this transaction was just like the hundreds of others she did every week. She gave great customer service and showed kindness to the thieves. Her choices were admirable and right. The thieves’ choices were evil and selfish.
I felt so bad for this young woman, and I told her that it was not her fault. I encouraged her to learn from the experience. I encouraged her to build in some safeguards to her best practices. I also told her that she had been victimized and was not responsible for the sin of those women. As I spoke with her, the Lord spoke to me.
I realized that there are times when we are sinned against even when we are doing everything to the best of our ability. We cannot control everything or everyone around us. Even though we are left with pain and embarrassment, it may not be our fault. It is not a sin to be victimized. Jesus was victimized, and we know He didn’t sin.
All of this may sound relatively simple. But simple or not, I had it wrong. I always believed that I had some power to solve it, to fix it, or to avoid the pain from sin. I believed if I was just better, smarter, or holier, sin wouldn’t affect me! How foolish.
I now realize, I have been sinned against and although it is not pleasant, it is ok. I can keep going and strive to do what is right. I can continue to show kindness and give good customer service. I can live my life in relationship with God and not feel weighted down by the sin of others. I am free to love and enjoy the hundreds of right and good transactions that come my way.
Why? Because I know that no matter what people do, they cannot separate me from God’s love. I may not be able to fix or solve many of the issues that I encounter, but I can rest in God’s love for me. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:18,37). For nothing can separate me from the love of God!