RESTORING THE WANDERER
Lord, teach me how to accept constructive criticism.
Read MATTHEW 18:15–20
Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 “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.
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (Mic. 7:18).
This follows immediately after Jesus’ teaching about the Father’s concern for wandering sheep. The one who becomes aware of a brother’s or sister’s sin should go to them quietly and point out the matter, not with any hint of judgment but out of genuine love and concern for their well-being and that of the faith community. None of us is perfect: to point one finger at another’s sin means pointing three fingers back at ourselves. Great wisdom, self-examination, unfailing love, prayer, and the clear guidance of God’s Spirit are required.
There can be no excuses for lack of action. The church has a clear responsibility to deal with sinful behavior in its members. The name of Jesus is frequently brought into disrepute by the ungodly actions of his followers. Some may refuse to listen even when two or three witnesses, or the church as a whole, seeks to bring them to repentance. If that happens, they are to be treated as being outside the people of God. The church does not have the power to forgive or make decisions binding on God. He will forgive only when the offender makes peace with him.
Verse 20 is often quoted when a small group gathers to pray and is certainly relevant there, but, in this context of restoring the wanderer, it applies to prayer for the sinner. The Jews have a saying that “if two sit together and words of the Law (are) between them, the Shekinah (God’s presence) rests between them.”
Next time you find yourself criticizing another believer, think about your responsibility to them. Should you pray for them? Encourage right behavior? Express loving concern?
Lord, keep our church free of divisions spawned by hard feelings over sin and self-righteousness.