Daniel Holmquist is an area leader with EFCA ReachGlobal Asia Division. He pastored the Lancaster (California) EFC for 12 years and is currently a member of Church of the Canyons (EFCA) in Santa Clarita, California.
“He’s just not approachable,” she says, shaking her head. And her friends nod in sympathy. They’ve each been in the same place before, and they, too, have given up on trying to right a wrong for the same reason.
In fact, we’ve likely used the unapproachability excuse ourselves. But is it a legitimate reason for not addressing wrongs in a relationship? Is it biblical or even Christian? As Leviticus 19:17 points out, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him” (English Standard Version).
When Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him” (Matthew 18:15), He didn’t allow for exceptions because we feel uncomfortable. He knows it’s uncomfortable; that’s the point. We feel uncomfortable because relational tension is always uncomfortable until it’s resolved. It’s a sin in itself to not go and talk.
The approachability excuse is frequently a form of manipulation,shifting the blame to the other person. It’s now her fault that someone won’t talk to her; or he is made out to be the unspiritual one. After all, they are “unapproachable.” But the responsibility to take the initiative and start the conversation of healing lies with the one who feels offended.
The approachability excuse is not loving. Instead, it’s judgmental, making assumptions about character and personality. Quite the opposite, Scripture says that love “rejoices with the truth” and “hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
The approachability excuse “works” for the attacker almost every time. After all, the accused one is offered no opportunity to explain (and may not even realize there’s been an offense).
The approachability excuse poisons everyone. When we write off someone as unapproachable, we begin to harbor resentment that can kill our spiritual life. (Read more about how to avoid bitterness.) And because we usually talk to others, we poison the atmosphere around us too (Hebrews 12:15).
Honest and gracious discussion between Christians can be so healing. We must pray through our fears, ask the Spirit to help us first think the truth, then grant us the courage to obey and have the necessary conversation. And when we go in faith, God will meet us at the meeting. True, it might still be difficult, but He always blesses the speaking of His truth in love.