Friday 1 September 2023

Matthew 18:15-22

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.”

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Good relationships are essential in a church. It doesn’t take much searching in the media to find a story of disagreement or hurt within a church, which not only causes disruption within the congregation but is also a terrible witness to those outside the church.

In this passage, Jesus gives us a template for how to cope with inevitable hurts and disagreements that happen – since churches are full of flawed human beings! The aim is reconciliation and restoration of harmony within the congregation – it is not revenge or justification of our hurts and grievances! Jesus’ key seems to be love and humility. Approach the person who has offended you one-on-one to start with – don’t make a song and dance about it! If that doesn’t work, go back with a third person – because sorting this out is important. Finally, approach church leaders if needed.

In first-century culture, people’s identity came from the groups they belonged to – they were much less individualistic than us. Treating people “like a pagan” means treating them as someone who is not part of the Christian group at the moment – but also as someone who has potential to become part of the group. In other words, they were temporarily exiled in order to encourage repentance and restoration, not as punishment. Peter’s question reinforces this – how often should we forgive? An infinite number of times (the implication of seventy times seven).

Lord Jesus, I know that harmony within your church is essential. Please help me to be slow to be offended, always working towards good relationships and quick to be forgiving. Amen

Written by Megan Cornell

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