Matthew 18:15-20

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:15-20

We all remember M. Scott Peck’s famous lines from “The Road Less Traveled”: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

I appreciate those words. They might even be true. But we still need some tools to navigate the difficulty of life. Jesus gives us an important tool today.

It is inevitable that people will get sideways from one another. Different points of view will lead to differences of opinion which will lead to disagreements. Broken people create breaks in relationships. People sin against each other. What then? Jesus gives us a path forward.

First, we are to talk to the person face to face. Alone. It might work. Confession and absolution might result. The relationship might be healed.

If not, we need to reach out for help. Bringing two or three others into the disagreement means there are more ears to hear, more perspectives to ponder. It might feel like ganging up but it doesn’t need to. There is safety in numbers. It might work. Confession and absolution might result. The relationship might be healed.

If not, Jesus says to bring the issue to the wider community. Why? Because there is more at stake than just a problem between two people. Many is the community that has fallen apart due to personal conflicts and divisions within. If a problem is serious enough to separate two people then it is serious enough, if not handled privately, for it to be dealt with publicly. But then comes the really hard part to hear, “if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Now that could mean show them all the more grace, or it could mean, separate them from the community. A nudge becomes a push.

All of this becomes an important tool in our lives for handing conflict. Conflict is inevitable. Life is difficult. How we handle conflict makes all the difference in the world. Jesus is clear that we handle conflict by working through it, not by pretending it away, or running around it, or spreading it by appealing our case to others who weren’t initially involved. Easy to say, hard to do.

Again I’m reminded where Jesus would have us focus our attention. We tend to think (even worry) about our relationship with God. Jesus redirects our attention to our relationships with one another. That God’s will be done on earth. That we forgive our neighbor. In that we will see Jesus in our midst.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, help us in our relationships with others to strive toward humility, honesty, and vulnerability. Keep our minds open and our hearts soft. Teach us anew that relationships are more important than results and that the wider purposes of our life together are worth working through the problems that arise along the way. Remind us again and again that you are always present. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Matthew 18:15-20”

  1. Carolee Groux Says:

    It is difficult to be humble; our pride gets in the way. We need God’s grace to accept our vulnerability. our brokenness. As we share our shortcomings we find that God accepts us just as we are. We need to accept others in their brokenness and be our authentic selves. We need to accept others just as they are, just as God accepts us with all our faults. Where two or more of us are gathered in his name he promises to be there also. What a comforting thought.

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