As I let this passage examine me and teach me today, Jesus is instructing his disciples about conflict resolution. I am to work to live at peace with my brother. The non violent peace of Christ Jesus is based on truth and the telling of truth. If I,or we say we follow Christ, then we are his disciples and he is speaking to us. Do I want to hear truth if it involves me, and if it’s something that I don’t see , but need to know about myself , to mature as a follower of Jesus. Christ Jesus who knows the hearts of men, he knows my heart , assumes that I will wrong my brother and that he will wrong me. This can subsequently lead to conflict between us both. Conflict is not to be ignored or denied because it is sin. Jesus , the master Shepherd instructs me on how to , as a follower of his to deal with this sin.
In verse 15 of this passage , Jesus instructs me that I am to go to my brother , if he has sinned against me, I am to show him his sin, just the two of us, a private affair. I am to win him over, as opposed to winning the argument. As in Galatians chapter 6:1, I am to confront but restore him , with the tenderness of mending a broken bone. Avoiding condemning my brother to others and spreading gossip about him. What if we can’t agree? If he won’t listen to me? Verse 16 instructs that we are to involve others in our community of faith. Ask for their help in prayer , share my burden with them , share facts about the matter with them as opposed to my opinions. Seek their council. If restoration with my brother is still not achieved,verse 18 instructs that I am to involve the whole faith community , that we both belong to. But now what was a private matter is public and discipline comes into play. Discipleship involves discipline.
Discipline is necessary because sin being the root of the conflict must be dealt with or it will spread. What was once a matter between me and my brother , now involves others and is open to compromise and misunderstanding. Bible scholar , Warren Wiersbie puts it this way, “No wonder Christ Jesus and the Apostle Paul , both compared sin to leaven ( Yeast) because leaven spreads. ”
Jesus goes onto instruct that if the offender in our dispute does not listen, that brother is to be treated like a pagan or a tax collector. Is Jesus saying that they are to be placed outside the church or faith community? Is this the same Jesus that instructs me to love my enemies ( Matt. 5:.43-48), do to others as I would have them do unto me ( Matt:7:12), or love my neighbour as myself ( Matt. 22:38)? Is he talking about excommunication ?
Theologian, Stanley Hauerwas writing a study on this passage said this: Excommunication is an act of love, excommunication is not to thrown somebody out of the Chrurch, but rather an attempt to help your brother see that he has become a stumbling block and therefore is already out of the church. Excommunication is a call to come home, by undergoing penance. If we fail to challenge each other in our sin, then we abandon one another to sin. We demonstrate how little we love our brother or sister by refusing to engage in the work of reconciliation ( Stanley Hauerwas).
Today’s teaching and instruction from Jesus is a challenge for me and for all who are disciples and followers of Christ Jesus as we serve in the mission of GSCMC. Let us forgive much, because we are forgiven much.
Corky – Pilgrim chapter, Ireland