Jesus Gets Mundane
The text this week is Matthew 18: 15-20. This is a teaching text whereby Jesus is explaining how to go about dealing with division in the church. It may be that the Gospel writer, working sometime after the resurrection feels the need to address organizational issues, as it seems like it is taking Jesus awhile to return (as if He is on our timetable). It may just be a Jesus teaching that deals generally with how His followers are to treat one another when disputes inevitably arise.
In any event, it is all very mundane-quite churchy, in fact. Yet, this is a Jesus who is not naïve. Jesus knows that there will be disputes and disagreements in any community. They need not create lasting divisions, yet they may produce some who fall away from the larger group. The important lesson here is that Jesus offers a process for dealing with these disputes that is totally consistent with His message of love and forgiveness.
The main point Jesus makes in rolling out this process is to go slow. You do not start with a dramatic, hysterical reaction. In fact, you never get to that point. If there is a problem you go to the one you have a problem with, and wait for it…have a conversation. If you iron it out, then all is well. If this does not take care of the issue, then bring one or two others with you, and wait again…have another conversation.
Only if this does not work does Jesus counsel taking it to the wider church body. Only if this does not work is there to be a parting of ways. There is to be no disparagement, no violence, simply each going their own way. You know, like civilized adults. One supposes that Jesus would be saddened by such a turn of events, as we should be as well. Yet sometimes it happens. This is the reality of our human lives. That we do this in a measured and loving manner is what is of concern to Jesus here.
Authority and Responsibility
Jesus then grants specific authority to His followers when He says in Verse 18 that “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. He is granting authority in these matters, yet at the same time saying that there will be earthly and heavenly consequences. This is as much a warning as it is an indication of trust. We must be responsible in the use of this temporal authority.
This cautionary note harkens back to Matthew 13 and the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Do not seek to pull up all the weeds as you will pull up good wheat as well, leave this to God. Also, when this passage talks about sin it is good to remember Matthew 7 and the parable of the log in our own eye. Look first to the ways we sin (the log in our eye), and only then deal with another’s sin (the speck in their eye).
If we keep these cautionary notes in mind, this passage can offer us a loving way to deal with situations that have gotten to the point where we need to address the issue, rather than let it fester. We take this advice to heart because we trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. A trust that Jesus reinforces when He points out that where two or three are gathered in His name, Jesus is present (Verse 20). That is we come to this text with belief and try to implement it to obey.
Praise Be to God