‘If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back. But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other persons with you, so that “every accusation may be upheld by the testimony of two or more witnesses,” as the scripture says. And if he will not listen to them, then tell the whole thing to the church. Finally if he will not listen to the church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector. (verses 15-17)
Read Matthew 18: 15-21
Society tells us again and again that we are free to be ourselves. Anything goes. Nobody can tell another person what to do or say. But God disagrees with this. There are things that society readily accepts that God says are sinful. Many say they are Christians and they may attend church every Sunday, yet they disobey God’s rules because society says they can. This is the time to quietly remind ‘your brothers’, your fellow believers, that what they do is wrong in the eyes of God. A gentle pointer back to God’s truth may be all that’s needed to get them back on the right track.
But when a person is forced to face God’s rules and finds they conflict with their personal desires, resentment and stubbornness can set in. Jesus clearly sets out the steps to be taken in dealing with errant believers. And the final step is also clear. If ultimately the church cannot set a person back on the path to God, then everyone is to leave them well alone and allow them to go their own way. They are in God’s hands, not yours.
Help me live a life worthy of you, Lord, so that I can help others see your path. Amen.
by Kathy Hoopmann, in ‘Living Water for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2001)
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