Dealing with Sin
Healing and Sovereign God, overcome my dull, resistant ears so that I may hear Your transforming word. Draw me close to You.
Read Matthew 18:15-20
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“When someone wrongs us, we often do the opposite of what Jesus recommends. We turn away in hatred or resentment, seek revenge, or gossip” (Life Application Bible). Ouch! Jesus’ way gives a much better chance of restoring the relationship.
Our society delights to name and shame. The media pillories the possible transgressor, and juicy details are savored. Kingdom living, however, has a gentler way of seeking justice and righting wrongs.
The ekklesia (17) here is not the post-resurrection local church of Paul’s epistles (although, of course, that would have been Matthew’s own immediate context). Rather, it has a more general sense of the assembly of believers, harking back to the assembly of God’s people, Israel (Deut. 19:15). Our fallenness means that sometimes believers will act wrongly towards one another. Instead of joining in with malicious, condemnatory gossip, Jesus teaches a loving yet transparent way of resolving wrongs. “Just between the two of you” (15) treats both parties with respect, justice and love. The one at fault is given the opportunity to recognize the wrong; both have the opportunity to forgive and to be forgiven. If the fault is not acknowledged, Jesus advocates the wise Old Testament principle of the testimony of two or three witnesses. Failing that, only then should the believer take his case to the wider assembly of believers. The ultimate sanction of exclusion is the result of the individual’s own choice (17).
Amazingly, God entrusts his authority to the community of believers (18; Matt. 16:19), reflecting the Good Shepherd’s own loving concern for his people. So, how should God’s people act as they hold one another to account? Verse 20 is not a mantra for getting whatever you want when you pray. It follows Jesus’ words about how believers are to deal with sin. The agreement to ask our Father (19) can only arise out of careful consideration of the right way forward. Prayerful reflection and mutual accountability lead to prayer in the name of Jesus (20)–with the assurance that, as we seek his will, God is with us.
What are the stages in the reconciliation process? Why not go public right away? Do you need to deal with broken relationship?
Loving Lord, I need to embrace Your wisdom in my relationships. Give me renewed courage to initiate reconciliation when it is needed.
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