February 17, 2011 – Devotion Sharing

Matthew 18:15-20

What responsibility does each Christian have towards the sins of his brother/sister?  What responsibility does the church have? Each Christian has the responsibility not to ignore the sins of his brother or sister, but to show him his fault and speak the truth in love so that ultimately that person will repent. The church has the same responsibility, as each member exercises this kind of ownership and accountability over one another, and collectively the church must confront or appropriately deal with sin in its midst.

What picture of the church emerges from the process that a person is advised to take in leading a brother to repentance? The process Jesus advises is to talk directly to the person first, then with one or two others, and then with the involvement of the church/leadership. The picture of the church that emerges is one in which the ultimate goal is the restoration and repentance of the person involved and the preservation of relationships and of the community. It’s not about accusations and shame or excommunication, but taking the appropriate steps and employing a process of escalation to help someone who needs to deal with his or her sin. You want the brother to repent and not for the relationship to be severed and end in coldness or bitterness. This wouldn’t even look like harsh confrontations, but simply involves conversations, exhorting, speaking truth, meeting together, and careful dealing with people who have sinned.

Matthew 18:15; 1 Corinthians 5:5

What is the goal of the disciplinary actions envisioned in these passages? The goal of the disciplinary actions is restoration and repentance, to win your brother over back to the side of truth and fellowship and righteousness, so that his spirit may ultimately be saved.

1 Corinthians 5:6

Reflect on the analogy of the “batch of dough.”  What sort of thing is the church according to this analogy, and what vulnerabilities are suggested by this picture? The church is not a bunch of discrete, separate people but a close-knit community with a network of relational ties and bonds. It is therefore very vulnerable to even a small internal influence – a little bit of yeast works through the entire dough. The attitudes and sentiments of one or a few people can spread quickly and subtly. A few divisive comments or suspicious ideas can get into people’s minds, or some sin or harmful practice might be seen as acceptable because no one says anything about it but just seems to be okay with it. In the case of the Corinthians, their lax attitude toward sin and toward this sexually immoral man spread, such that their response was to become proud rather than being filled with grief.

How does today’s text apply to you? This text shows me that sin is serious and needs to be dealt with — and it’s not just a private matter, but one that affects others and the whole church. And so when there’s sin, people need to get involved. As the church, we have a responsibility to confront sin and not let it be the little yeast that will infect the rest of the dough.

For myself, when I am confronted with my sin or someone brings up a situation and shows me the truth about myself, this is why I have to be humble, listen and respond. The people that God has placed in my life, my leaders and friends, are exercising their responsibility in not turning a blind eye to a problem they see in my life or my character, and taking ownership over me.

Also, as a leader, I have this responsibility to help others to deal with their sin and not turn a blind eye toward it. In the context of this church, when difficult issues or situations come up involving someone, we’re not able to just ignore it but we have to deal with it wisely and carefully. If someone has sinned, I need to talk to him about it and help him to repent and turn from it. We’re called to be a church marked by holiness and obedience to God, not tolerating sin but dealing with it together, struggling together. We are our brothers’ keepers, and we’re put here together so that we can look out for one another. I know that if I do something, someone is going to come and talk to me about it. Likewise, I need to be a brother who is willing to do the hard thing of confronting someone else about a sin or some issue in his life when it is appropriate to do so, and I need to have a lot of wisdom and vigilance as a leader for the people that God’s entrusted me to watch over.

by Michael Kang, Gracepoint San Diego

Matthew 18:15-20

What responsibility does each Christian have towards the sins of his brother/sister?  What responsibility does the church have?

Our responsibility to our brother/sister is to point out their fault when they sin.   If you think about what level of responsibility this means that as a Christian, Jesus is saying the level of ownership over one another is quite high.  That when your brother/sisters sins, even though it’s not against you, it’s something you have to bring up. The responsibility of the church extends directly from this, except rather than a two or three people confronting you about your sin, it’s the entire community responding to it.  The community itself has the same kind of ownership over the individual as one of their own; enough to confront and even withdraw from fellowship if need be.

What picture of the church emerges from the process that a person is advised to take in leading a brother to repentance?

The ministry of confronting a person and leading a person to repentance is not easy.  It’s done gradually.  First, it’s a personal interaction between a few close brothers/sisters.  And then if there is no repentance, then it escalates to the entire community.  But throughout, you see that it’s done with what Apostle Paul would later echo as “with careful instruction and patience.”  The fact that there’s a common witness of three individuals shows that accuracy is very important, and that it’s not just a subjective viewpoint of one person.  The fact that Jesus describes this as process shows that bringing someone to repentance isn’t just a simple matter of putting them on some kind of trial and issuing quick judgment.  The gradual nature of it reflects that the church is about real relationships, and as it so, it must be handled with care and with much thought.

Matthew 18:15; 1 Corinthians 5:5

What is the goal of the disciplinary actions envisioned in these passages?

The actions are redemptive in purpose.  It’s for the goal of the person to repent.  It’s not for purpose of an efficient punitive judgment.  In the end, we want to restore this person back to a God.

Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5

In both of these passages, a brother can potentially end up being relationally severed from the rest of the Christian community (Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:2, 11-13).  Cold, harsh words appear in these texts: “treat him as you would a pagan”; “put out of your fellowship the man who did this.”; “with such man do not even eat”; and “expel the immoral brother.”

What, then, is the nature of Christian brotherhood/sisterhood that such potential severing of relationships is envisioned?  What is being upheld as Christians live out such a code of conduct in relationships?

Indeed, the words used to describe this cutting off of relationship is severe. Perhaps one way of looking at it is that the pain and severity of it all the more highlights the intensity and bond that Christian fellowship in fact ought to have.  If the relationship was out of convenience and not big deal, then it wouldn’t be necessary to use such strong language.  But the language in fact implies that our relationships must always be founded on truth, first and foremost.  If a close brother to me sins and refuses to repent, and it’s not a big deal to me, you would question how much I really care about him.  Is he just a mere acquaintance to me?  What’s the common thing that holds us together?  But because the vision of the Christian bond is that we are both sinners, forgiven and redeemed by Christ, the refusal to repent of an egregious sin strikes to the very reason of our bond to begin with.

For me, this is a somber reminder to remember the basis of my relationships in this body of Christ that I’m in.  For sure, there’s a lot of convenient commonalities that we share: went to college together, all around the same age, live nearby each other, and common friends.  As good as these are, the basis of my relationships must always be in the truth of the gospel through which we are saved.  That is what is being upheld as we live under this code of conduct of relationships that Jesus outlines.  And so, the intensity and depth of my relationships is dictated  through how much the gospel matters to me personal and in the lives of those I call my brother and sister.  I think remembering this is crucial, especially when I’m on the receiving end of feedback, when I’m having a sin pointed out.  All of that is possible because we share this incredible gospel, and that is the foundation of our relationship.

Human relationships break up all the time.  What causes these breakdowns, and what are the typical values that govern such situations?

Surprising what causes breakdowns in most human relationships is that there is no talking, no confronting, and no challenge.  People often just walk away.  Just step away, ignore the other person, have nothing to do with them.  Often, breakdowns in relationships happen too easily because the commonality that bonds two people together is based on something very superficial.  Rarely do people active invest in your relationships, and so they naturally deteriorate and atrophy.

And if they do decide to talk, facts are often murky.  People misinterpret one another.  There’s no gathering of one or two more people for an accurate witness.  It’s your version against my version.  Even in the business world, there’s the idea of a mediator to help bring objectivity when two companies are in a heated debate.  But that idea of truth is sorely lacking when the people try to deal with their personal relationships.

Apart from the gospel, these kind of breakdowns become systematically common in history.  Rarely do you see analogs of where master and slave, rich and poor, Greek/Jews are reconciled as Apostle Paul described in Ephesians.  Breakdown is all too common when there’s little of a universal relational ethic.  Reconciliation is therefore rare in a secular world.

Submitted by Conrad C., Gracepoint Berkeley
Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response