Recent events and topics have had me thinking a lot about Mt 18. I don’t even have to mention the verses, do I? Well, at any rate, I’ll quote them all the same.
11For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
12How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
What? Not the verses you expected? They come afterwards, don’t they? Notice the context, though. Jesus talks about offences. He talks about despising the little ones. He talks about restoration.
Yes, restoration. Saving that which was lost. That’s the context!
15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And so, Jesus tells us how to go about restoring a lost relationship.
Notice the steps, though:
1. Go to your brother in private and try to work it out. It doesn’t give any limits on how many times you might want to try this before moving on to step 2.
2. After exhaustively attempting to reconcile on your own, take along 2 or 3 witnesses with you. Notice, these are “witnesses” not judges. It doesn’t say take along people that will agree with you. The implication is that they should be objective. They should not be intimately involved with the people concerned. Again, there are no time limits. There are no stated limits that say it can only be one meeting, two meetings, etc.
3. After exhaustively attempting to work it out this way, then it goes before “the church”.
Now, at this point, some believe “the church” should be a group of ministers. Some believe “the church” means the entire body of believers. To be far, both sides have valid points. To say the least, however, by the time you reach that point, the contention is obviously made public. It seems that the real point Jesus is making is not whether only men schooled at some Bible college can judge or not, but rather the point seems more along the lines of working it out privately if at all possible.
There were parties in all sides of the recent UCG upheaval that violated this, certainly. However, if you are going to choose any of those sides as part of your allegiance and/or affiliation, then I would give careful thought as to which side seemed more inclined to follow it, try to meet with others and didn’t try to publicly decry the conduct of others, versus which side seemed more inclined to publicly answer what should have been private communications, accuse others, slander other leaders in written form and cut off and control communications.
I realize people are sometimes frustrated that, “My minister doesn’t tell me anything,” but perhaps it is because he is trying to follow Jesus’ admonition to go to someone privately rather than telling the world of another’s faults.
You see, there is a level of transparency that is needed in any organization. However, when it involves going to your brother, perhaps it is best to avoid the spreading of gossip.