Open Blog about Matthew 18

15) If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.

16) But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

17) If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17 (Amplified Bible)

I have been thinking about this since yesterday’s post. I have read this passage in most translations. The amplified seems to be one of the most impartial.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences regarding this passage. I will withhold my own thoughts until tomorrow because I don’t want you feeling like you have to agree with me.

Go ahead, make my day. :)

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9 thoughts on “Open Blog about Matthew 18

  1. Having served in cross-cultural missions for several years, I have to say that I read this Scripture as a principle based idea. By that I mean that the underlying principles are universal, but the application in specifics are not.

    For example, having lived several years in Vancouver, where I was somewhat of a minority amoung a beautifully diverse population (largely Asian), I learned alot about “saving face”. Respectful and effective confrontation in this culture paradigm (and note that I am generalizing here) does not always look like Matthew 18. (A great book on this topic is “Cross-Cultural Conflict” by Duane Elmer).

    Now, I also know many Asian believers who reject this idea, while others practice a contextualized application of Matthew 18. In my own experience, even with those who reject the contextualized approach, it still works better.

    Not sure if this is what you were looking for (as I suspect your focus is on vs. 17), but there you go!

    Peace,
    Jamie

  2. Someone just “scripturized” me with this verse a couple of weeks ago in a middle-school girls crisis. Argh, it is extremely annoying to me when someone uses the Word of God like a prosecuting attorney.

    Ok, well Grace, I had to go confer with my handy-dandy Barclay’s Daily Bible Commentary. I don’t always agree with
    Mr Barclay, but many times he has cast light and insight on a verse that has been very beneficial.

    He makes a couple of interesting observations about Matt’s passage here. Barclay wonders, first of all, how accurate it is – this, from a conservative Bible commentator. He points out that it is premature for Christ to speak of the Church for it had not been born yet. Also, whole scheme of protocol is church-government and policy, something that was not in existence.

    Barclay also points out that Jesus never spoke disparagingly of tax-collectors or pagans. He always had sympathy for them and in fact, they were his friends. His comment here could actually be viewed more as an admonition to love and forgive the sinning brother as Jesus would have us also love the tax-gatherer and pagan, love those who live on the outside as if they didn’t live on the outside. What would happen if someone in relational conflict or offense was treated with unconditional forgiveness and love? (this obviously bars dangereous and deviant behavior).

    Barclay sums it up by reminding us that reading this passage “as is” suggests that there is a limit to forgiveness. This is not the way of Christ, it would be contrary to him. The Jesus we have observed in the gospels does not put people out. Reconciliation is the goal.

    Barclay writes that Matthew has recorded something that Jesus said, though he thinks it is a distorted quote.

    For me, this passage seems to be used as a weapon, like it was against me a couple of weeks ago. I never want to use the bible as a power to intimidate others or shame them. The kingdom of God is not like this. Jesus is not like this.

    In anticipation of those who would remind us that God is a God of justice and judgment and he will put people out…well, let him do it in his limitless wisdom and understanding of all human matters, it’s not for me to do.

    If someone has said to you that you must be “disfellowshipped” and treated as an outside than they have missed the point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He welcomes in, not puts out, and that is how we are to treat tax-gatherers and pagans, with love and respect.

  3. I just read your post “Clanging Cymbals.” You and I are definitely tracking together, Grace.

    Brett wondered about love and truth, isn’t it love to tell the truth? Yes, it is, and the truth is, God’s steadfast love never ceases, his mercy never comes to an end, they are new every morning. The truth is that Grace and Mercy overcome judgment, I think James and that lovely prophet-dude Habakkuk wrote about that.

    Matthew 18 is not a loophole to treat people like sh*t.

  4. I see this illustration as being first and formost one person doing something to another person in the “community”. It shows the process to address the grievance privately first so as not to call attention to the person’s sin against me thus not allowing for gossip to start. Verse 16 brings a stronger testimony against the sin (and hopefully more truth spoken in love and prayer). Again guarding against gossip since the two or three others would likely already know of the situation. verse 17 is a last resort. In that verse, who is the church? I think it has been used in the context of tell the Pastor or church council and then they will excommunicate the person. I don’t think that is necessarily what is meant. “Pagans and tax collectors” perhaps need more teaching about what is sin, how sin harms the fellowship of believers, how the evil one uses sin to extend the kingdom of darkness etc. It may mean that someone teaching wrongly may need to step down from teaching but not necessarily be expelled from the fellowship. Perhaps it means the person is excluded from particiption in Holy Communion until repentance is done. It depends so much on the nature of the offense and the person’s attitude toward reconciliation.
    No time presently to expand or explain what I mean in more detail but that’s life…lunch is over….see ya soon.

  5. I think the Bible is telling us to give someone the benefit of the doubt. This should all be done with an attitude of humility and love, not arrogance. Also, I believe this process should only be entered into due to a legitimate, continued offense such as stealing money from the church. This is not just about a simple difference of opinion.

    When I’m honest with someone about how their behavior is affecting others negatively, out of respect for their dignity, I am to approach them privately. Then, if the damaging behavior continues, I should take another trusted friend with me and approach the person again. (The point being to treat them with dignity.) Now, if this person is completely unreasonable, then as a last resort I go to the church.

    I’m not a very confrontational person, so the whole process of church discipline is quite uncomfortable- I am of the opinion that I should remove the sliver from my own eye before trying to remove the speck from my brothers.

    However, people never seem to hesitate before taking something immediately before the church these days. This happened to me just a few months back. I was devastated. It showed they felt I was too unreasonable to be spoken to privately. Ouch!

  6. Jamie,
    Very interesting point. It seems I remember reading something you wrote about this. If a technical application of this passage violates cultural values, it would certainly go against the intent and principle of the passage.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. I’ve always thought the key phrase in this passage was “won back your brother”.

    This passage gets used as a club for people we disagree with, but I would like to suggest that we should view it more like somebody who is desperate to “win back” someone who is falling away from the faith.

    Context of this passage is also St. Peter’s “how many times must I forgive” question (70 X 7, say Jesus), followed by the parable of the unmerciful servant. The point of that parable being that we are to forgive, period. After the incredible forgiveness that God has shown us, we are out of line when we refuse to forgive. The emphasis of Matthew 18 is on restoration, not excommunication.

    Which leads me full circle to my post the other day: “Forgiveness does not require (the other person’s) repentence — but reconciliation does.” (Still thinking that one through…)

  8. I’d like to understand this topic better. I find it interesting that just below the verse in Matthew 18:17 that specifies to treat the unrepentant as a pagan or tax collector, there is a caution that whatever we bind on earth we will bind also in heaven.

    To simply write someone off as a pagan or tax collector or use this verse as free license to treat someone poorly to their grave misses the point. I think the point in verse 18:18 can be found in Romans 2:4 where we learn that it is kindness that leads one toward repentance and Romans 12:17-21 which boils down to overcoming evil with good. Those represent the true fruit of the spirit and any reader of Matthew 18:17 should not stop there, but read on and really explore the heart of God on this matter.

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