by Ruth Olsen
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If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for … (Matthew 18:19a).
Read Matthew 18:15–20
Each of us is responsible before our Heavenly Father for what we say and do. Matthew 18 begins with Jesus’ disciples asking him who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. His response: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:3,4 NIV). But woe to anyone who causes little ones who believe in him to sin! Get rid of, or turn and run away from, anything that causes you to sin. For the Father doesn’t want any of his little ones to be lost (verses 1–14).
Next, Jesus is speaking to adults, where sin happens one to another. As adults, we are to exercise responsibility when something wrong is said or done; to go privately, one-to-one – where applicable – to try to deal with that wrong for the relationship to be restored. Of course, if the wrong is done to a child, or there is some other unequal level of power, a different strategy is needed.
Receiving correction is not easy for any of us; likewise, neither is giving it! Pride and fear get in the way. It takes courage to recognise and acknowledge wrongdoing. Like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, we would rather hide from God and blame others when found out. Broken, fallen human nature resists truth.
But Jesus gives us the gifts of forgiveness, prayer and his presence to help us in any situation. And if we can agree with another person on earth about anything we ask his help in, knowing he is right there with us, that prayer can be answered. There’s power to change where there is agreement in prayer. Hearts can be softened, and courage received to acknowledge wrongdoing and receive help in repairing the wrongdoing where possible. None of it is easy.
Like Peter (verse 21), we ask, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive …?’ We feel justified in asking that question, not recognising it is the wrong question to ask. But when we forgive, we are ‘loosed’, set free from the wrong done to us, and our Heavenly Father can deal with it on our behalf.
Lord, have mercy. Change our hearts; renew our minds. By the power of your Spirit, give us courage in dealing with these things. Amen.
Ruth thoroughly enjoys what opportunities ‘retirement’ provides to see more of this beautiful country. When you are reading this, Ruth and her husband Steen will be wandering somewhere in Western Australia with their caravan, probably marvelling at the brilliant diversity of wildflowers to be found there.