“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. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
(Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)
We’re currently studying a passage in which Jesus gives believers the authority to deal with sin amongst themselves. More than that, He commands us to deal with it as the verbs in this passage are in the imperative mood.
The first step of the process when someone sins is to go and tell that person his fault. This conversation should be private, between you and him alone. No one else should be involved. We should not complain or gossip to another person. We shouldn’t ask anyone else’s advice on how to handle the situation or what to say. We are to go to them (albeit, after praying for guidance from God).
The reason for doing this in private is we may be wrong. It’s possible that we are misreading the situation and are mistaken about our brother’s (or sister’s) behavior. If we had gone to a third party first we could very well be spreading misinformation.
Going to our brother/sister in private allows both us and the alleged sinner to clear the air and discuss the matter. If we are wrong then the matter is resolved and should be forgotten by both parties. But if we are right, there are a couple of ways the discussion can go.
If our brother listens to us, we have gained a brother. That is, someone who was wandering from God is returned to Him. A brother/sister is restored, which is the goal of the entire process.
The focus is never to be on us as the offended party, but on the other person who, through sin, is straying from God. We should care enough about someone’s relationship with God to confront them about behavior that is damaging to that relationship [Proverbs 11:30].
A few days ago Jesus stated He would go looking for any one of His followers who strayed from Him [Matthew 18:10-14]. Today Jesus tells us that we – the body of believers – are to do the same. We are to care very much about a fellow believer who strays into sin.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say the person must agree with what we say. He simply says “if he listens”. It is enough that the person hears what we say without getting confrontational. Planting a seed of awareness of the person’s sin (they may not even be aware that their behavior is sin) may be all that is needed. Perhaps the person will come around as God continues to convict them.
Every member of God’s family is important. When one stumbles, we all stumble. To confront a believer about their sin is the most loving thing we can do. Not to do it, in the name of “tolerance” or because “it’s none of my business” is not loving. It is indifference. Not to mention, it is disobedience (and therefore sin itself).
Tomorrow we’ll study what to do if the person does not listen.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.