October 15, 2021
Scripture: “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. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 ESV
Observation: Commonly referred to as the “Matthew 18 Principle,” Jesus outlines a godly means of confronting a fellow Christian when they are straying from God in sin. Following the Mosaic law, we discretely approach the other person one-on-one and then with two or three witnesses if necessary (Deuteronomy 19:15). But if the one who has strayed refuses to repent, then (for their sake) bring them before the congregation for public censure. Finally, if their hearts are recalcitrant, treat them as an unbeliever. In practice, this means that their membership privileges are revoked until they repent. They are banned from all leadership positions and are not permitted to vote on church matters or receive communion. But the doors should always be open that they might hear the reading and preaching of the Word and come to repentance.
Takeaway: The aim is restoration. And the only way to ensure that no hidden agendas will sabotage the process is to first pray for wisdom and insight: wisdom concerning how to confront the other person and insight into our motives. We must first take the plank out of our eye before we try to remove the speck from our brother’s (7:3-5). Indeed, when we reflect on our struggles with sin and acknowledge that all of us continually need God’s grace and forgiveness, we will speak from a place of humility and compassion. And if they sense that we are solely motivated to care for them, they are more likely to repent at the first intervention step. The same undergirding of humility and compassion must be applied with each stage of the intervention. In contrast, if we are blinded to our sins or have been hurt but their sins, we are more likely to speak the truth without love and cause more harm than good.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for graciously exposing our sins and blind spots through the work of your Holy Spirit and the community of believers. Would you please grant us wisdom and insight to show grace and humility toward others when you call us to confront them about their sins? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling