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Whose Fault Is It?

by Tim O'Hearn

Years ago I read a story of some geology students at a university, possibly Cal Tech, that had discovered three new geologic faults on the grounds of the campus. Being the discoverers, they had the right to name the faults, and chose the names My, Your, and Our. These students, wittingly or un, identified a fact of life—we all have faults. We are created by a faultless God, but in giving us choice he allowed us faults.

A geologic fault, in layman’s terms, is a line where two land masses come together. Since the surface of the earth is really floating on a vast ocean of molten rock, anywhere there is a fault there is the possibility of sudden movement. If the masses move apart enough to allow some of the molten rock or gases escape we have the beginnings of a volcano. Here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the west side of town is in the shadow of three such prominences, known as Butte, Black, and Ja. Although they have been inactive for just under a thousand years, they are evidence of the possibility of further upheavals in the land.

When two land masses do not separate, but merely scrape along each other suddenly, we have an earthquake. These can be mild or severe. California is waiting for “the Big One” to destroy it.

Since we humans have our own faults, we have the potential for our own brand of volcanoes and earthquakes. We are floating in a vast ocean of society. Sometimes we come against another human in such a way that we collide. This builds up pressure, which may erupt in a volcano of anger or result in “rubbing the wrong way” and causing a “people-quake.”

It would seem obvious to some that if we never dealt with other people, then we wouldn’t have these quakes. This has never been a successful way of dealing with the problem. You see, the faults are within us, not just between us. A hermit still has to deal with himself. The stereotypical hermit doesn’t know how to react in a civil manner. This shows the value of reacting with other people. Although the quakes come, we learn to react in ways to ease the tensions that could result in a massive blow-up. When we isolate ourselves, we don’t have the advantage of “blowing off steam.”

We have to live with people, with all of their faults (and all of ours). Scripture gives us insight into reducing the damage from the resulting people-quakes.

Paul writes that the way to prevent volcanoes is to limit their power to a single day. “Be angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Eph 4:26) The power of a volcano is built up pressure. If we don’t hold on to a grudge, the pressure doesn’t build to destructive proportions.

Jesus offered two ways to ease the power of a people-quake. The first method is prayer. “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)

When two people begin to rub against each other, sometimes one is unaware of the problem. That is when the second method comes into play. The shortened version is “go, take, tell.”

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Matt 18:15-17, emphasis mine)

When one does not follow the approved methods for relieving interpersonal stresses, the potential for damage increases. We each have our faults. Sometimes those faults cause earthquakes in our relationships. When that happens, let us keep it small, with no aftershocks. Lord, keep our faults from causing “the big one.”