So yesterday we began our series entitled Body Politics by looking at Conflict Resolution Jesus Style. So below is the text of the message and the discussion questions. Would love to hear your thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc....
Today we begin a 6 week series entitled Body Politics. But don’t worry we will not be talking about Politics, in the normal sense of Republican, Democrat, voting, etc…. And no we aren’t talking about the Human Body either.
We are doing a six week series entitled Body Politics centering on the Body of Christ and how Jesus calls his body to do life together, or in other words, how we “govern” our communal life together.
Today’s Body Politic that we will be unpacking together, is where I believe a community of Jesus followers need to begin, and one that is very difficult to truly live out. We have entitled this week “Conflict Resolution Jesus Style.” And we’ll be unpacking Matthew 18:15-17 together.
In the heading of Matthew 18, someone has entitled Matthew 18 in which our verses from today are located, as Qualities of a Kingdom Citizen. Meaning that if you are a citizen under the rule and reign of King Jesus, and that you are a part of his Kingdom, then this is how you are to be living your life. How you live under his rule and reign in all areas of life and especially in how you interact and engage with others who are also seeking to live under the rule and reign of King Jesus. And when multiple Kingdom Citizens are seeking to live under the rule and reign of King Jesus, we become a Kingdom community, and Matthew 18:15-17 says much about how we are to relate to one another in Kingdom communities.
Now before we get into the text for the morning, I have to say this. All too often this text and the application of this text in the life of a Kingdom community has been misunderstood and/or totally misapplied. This is to be a model of reconciliation but all too often these verses has been used for the very opposite thing, that of alienation. This Scripture is meant to give guidance towards restoring relationship and not as law. I am saying that of course we need to invite people to repent and put their lives back on a good track- good for the people involved and for the community of faith. But all too often however this text when applied badly, which many of us have seen so we feel like we can’t apply this text without screwing something up and we end up feeling like this picture. (Show slide)
So let’s jump into this text together. Matthew 18:15-17 is a model of reconciliation for Kingdom Communities, that are made up of people who live under the rule and reign of King Jesus. Matthew says this, ““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. 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.’ 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.”
So the first thing we need to see is the statement “if your brother or sister sins.” So we need to realize, as I said before, this is a model of reconciliation for those who are followers of Jesus. This model doesn’t apply to those who don’t live under the rule and reign of King Jesus. So please don’t try to apply this text word for word with someone outside the community of Faith. It normally won’t be received well, trust me. It is to family that this process is put into place for, not those outside the family of faith.
It is essential that we go to the offending party first- not griping, gossiping, etc.. to others, especially under the guise of ‘sharing a prayer request’ or ‘seeking counsel’. As hard as it is, as difficult as it is to do…we need to speak directly to the other person. And so if you do, it is possible then to gain a brother or sister back in 2 ways. First the problem has been cleared up and secondly you have gained them back because you have not wronged them by going to someone else.
So then what happens if they don’t listen, then you take 2-3 others with you. Why 2-3 others? It is a connection to the law of Moses in Deuteronomy 19:15 which says, “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” But it is really important in who you take with you in this process. If you take the wrong people, it can easily look like ganging up, judging, and condemnation and not trying to resolve a matter. The people you choose should be persons of influence or authority and also they should be that person’s friend or those whom he or she could put their confidence in.
If they don’t listen or refuse to listen to the 2-3 witnesses, then you take it to the church. Now this is 1 of the 2 passages in the gospels where the word church is used and here denotes the local congregation. But I really believe that this doesn’t mean the entire congregation, but leadership which represents the local congregation. But know this the circle of people in the situation only becomes wider as the offending party refuses to listen, never before.
The last part of the process, if we get to that part is where, I believe, things can go haywire and we might have gotten the understanding of this part of the text wrong. First, we need to know something about the writer of this gospel. Matthew was a tax collector before he met Jesus and left it all behind to follow Jesus. This I am sure influenced the writing of this part of the text. You see everything in Jewish religious culture of the day said, “If you are a tax collector, you are not one of us.” But yet how was Matthew, the tax collector treated by Jesus? With love, grace, compassion, mercy and he stilled said to Matthew, “Follow Me.” You see the “unrepentant offender” should be treated as Jesus treated tax collectors and pagans- with great love, with the continued goal of bringing about full repentance and reconciliation.
And there is where I wonder if we have read this wrong. We have read this part of the text as this, “Treat him like a Gentle or Tax Collector. Which really means get him out of here. Having Nothing to do with him.”
What if, and I mean what if, we have read it wrong and forgot to focus on how Jesus treated tax collectors and pagans? What if Matthew was writing this because of exactly how he was treated by Jesus? What if the exact opposite reading is true? What if instead of “Get him/her out of here and have nothing to do with him/her” it means “Love them. Accept them. Invite them. Eat with them. Oh, and keep on challenging them to be transformed into a faithful disciple of Jesus.” That last part is super super important. Don’t stop challenging them to be transformed into a faithful disciple of Jesus. All too often I believe we come into a false dichotomy here. We say either we need to remove ourselves from them and have nothing to do with them until they repent. Or we say we’ll just act as if nothing is wrong, stop challenging them, and just move on with life. No. I would say when we stay in close proximity with someone loving them, caring about them, continuing to be in their lives, and continuing to help them in being a more faithful disciple, that is when I believe change in you and change in them can truly happen and be unleashed.
I believe that this sort of good treatment when we make our convictions about belief clear, has the potential to lead to genuine repentance and to a reconciled community. And isn’t that what we truly want? A reconciled community, that doesn’t ignore issues hoping they will go away, or pretend that those issues aren’t happening? We want a reconciled Kingdom community of followers of Jesus who live under the rule and reign of King Jesus. And sometimes to get that we need to go through some of the difficulties of community life with each other.
So let’s unpack what this looks like and what this means for our community today. What it means to be a reconciled community. And I also want to create space and time for some possible reconciliation to happen, if it needs to happen. So let’s take some time to discuss, share, confront, and love together.
1. What are your thoughts, comments, insights, questions, push back, etc.. to the Scripture and the message? 2. Share a story when this process went bad. Share a story when this process went well. What were the differences between the two? Why did one go bad and one go well? 3. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?