Sunday, January 24, 2010

Interesting, very interesting....

Matthew 18:15-17
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony 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, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

My husband had the opportunity to hear a new twist on this scripture. A twist that has brought some interesting thoughts up, as well as lots of discussion.

This scripture is frequently used to explain what do with with a fellow Christian that isn't following God's will any longer. My understanding of how to explain this scripture may be wrong, but I've heard the scenario often described this way. If someone sins against you, you talk to the sinning party one on one, you bring witnesses, you take it to the church and if all of this fails to bring this person back to following God's will then you cut them off never to talk or speak to them again unless they want to repent or study repentance and then you can talk about repentance with them.

But let's look at what this scripture actually says. It says that if he still refuses to listen then you are supposed to treat them like a pagan or a tax collector. is the interesting part.....ready?....How did Christ treat pagans and tax collectors? I'm pretty sure that Jesus ate with the tax collectors and the pagans. He talked to them. He spent time with them. He loved them.

What if we started treating people that weren't following God's way like this? Do you think it might make a difference?


  1. I think it would make a huge difference if we treated them the way Christ did. The Message (which I realize is a paraphrased version) states the last verse like this: "If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love." Using this approach,it seems like one would have a much higher chance of reaching a person, as opposed to cutting them out of your life. Thanks for your blog post! - Amy

  2. Another point of view:

    In some scriptures we can find references to local beliefs, practices or thoughts of the day. In these scriptures, they are for points of reference and are not condemned or commended right there in that exact scripture. In 1 Cor 15:29, for example, Paul refers to the baptism of the dead to make a point. It was a local practice, but he does not comment on whether or not he agrees with it. He merely uses it as support for his argument.
    I would argue that the same is happening in this scripture. Notice that Jesus says to treat him as "you" would a pagan or tax collector. He did not include the words "should" or "ought to," nor did He use the word "I." Greeks, in general, were shunned by many Jews, even if they were believers. Consider when Paul went to Jerusalem in Acts 21 and what happened there. Consider Zacchaeus and his lack of popularity as a tax collector.

    Those are a few thoughts, but there is more.

    Jesus did not treat all people the same. Remember the woman caught in adultery? He told her to go and sin no more. Did he allow the others to stone her? Yell at her? No. However, He called the Pharisees what some people might consider harsh names. He spoke boldly to them. Why? Because not all people are the same. In the case of the Pharisees, they knew better and they are were being hypocrites. Think of children. No two children on the same. Not all discipline measures nor praise is effective for all children across the board. Each of us are different in what we respond to and what we need.

    In regards to how we treat sinners in the world vs. sinners in the church who are our brothers, the Bible has this to say:

    1 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NIV)
    9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people--
    10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
    11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

    2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 (NIV)
    6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
    7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you,
    8 nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
    9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.
    10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."
    11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.
    12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
    13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
    14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.
    15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

    As we can see from the above scriptures: There are certain instances in which we must refrain from associating with our brothers/sisters due to their sinful activity. Jesus/God knows that there is a place for this type of "discipline." It is not wrong to discipline in this fashion and we ought to do it in love, not regarding our sister/brother as an enemy (as is pointed out in the scripture above). The goal is listed: that the erring one might be ashamed (and, therefore, repent). We never want to act in such a way that would lead others to believe that we are okay with their sinful activity or that we approve of it in any way.