The Scriptorium

Our Brother's Keeper

We are accountable to one another. Matthew 18.15-17

Matthew 18: Others First (4)

Pray Psalm 63.1, 2
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Sing Psalm 63.1, 2.
(Nun Danken: Now Thank We All Our God)
O God, You are my God, and earnestly I seek You!
My soul thirsts and my flesh in weariness now greets You!
Thus I would see Your face, with glory and pow’r arrayed,
In this Your holy place – Your beauty here displayed.

Read
Matthew 18.1-17; meditate on verses 15-17.

Prepare.
1. What should we do if someone sins against us?

2. What is confrontation supposed to achieve?

Meditate.
Jesus shows us that, in the Kingdom of God and within the community of His people, we are our brother’s keeper, especially when it comes to sin. We have seen that Jesus wants us to hate sin and to avoid causing anyone to stumble into it. Now, when sin reaches us, we need to take action. When someone sins against us, we are not to simply shrug and say, “Oh, well.” Sin not dealt with remains in the soul, and from the sin-harboring soul, it can negatively affect the entire community.

Let’s analyze the procedure outlined here. First, what are we trying to achieve? Jesus says we want the one who has sinned against us to “hear” us when we explain the offense (v. 15). Implied in the verb here is “hear with understanding”, that is, to agree, confess, repent, and seek forgiveness. A sin has been committed; a fault has ruptured the peace of the community. It may be difficult to talk to the person who has offended us, but we have to do it. There is no punishment in this, just the attempt to repair a relationship that has been adversely affected by sin.

Notice, too, that we are to keep the confrontation with sin to within the context of those involved (v. 15). We are not to gossip with others about how someone has mistreated us. If we did that, we would sin against the person who has sinned against us.

What if our brother doesn’t “hear” us? Then we need to bring in another witness to confirm both that the offense has happened and that it needs to be acknowledged and repented of (v. 16). Indeed, more than one witness, who understands the situation, can be brought into the confrontation to try to help our brother understand his offense and repair the breach.

If that step fails to gain the hearing and repentance we seek, we are to “tell it to the church” – the Body of Christ. If the sinning brother will not agree when the whole congregation confronts him, then it’s clear he has no part in the congregation whatsoever. He should be put out until such time as he is willing to confess his sin and repent (v. 17).

This process is frequently referred to as “church discipline”, with all the negative connotations that second word entails. But sin is worse than discipline, and discipline is only the exercise of right practices in order to strengthen or repair that which has been weakened by neglect or misuse or sin. In the Church Jesus is building, church discipline is an important resource for keeping sin at bay and for making it possible for all members to increase in Christlikeness.

Reflect.
1. Every church member needs to be ready to confront the presence of sin in the church. Why?

2. How can we be sure that someone has sinned against us? Is it just because we feel that way (cf. Rom. 7.7)?

3. Church discipline is not for punishment, bur for correction and growth. What’s the difference?

The one who is healthy must go to the one who is sick. You must conduct your judgment of him privately. Make your cure easy to accept. For the words “correct him” mean nothing other than help him see his indiscretion. Tell him what you have suffered from him.
John Chrysostom (344-407), The Gospel of Matthew 60.1

Let me be open to hear if I have sinned against anyone, Lord, so that…

Pray Psalm 63.3-11.
Pray that God’s love, which reaches you every day in numerous ways, will extend through you to all the people you see. Give Him praise and thanks for His love, His Word, His salvation, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sing Psalm 63.3-11.
Psalm 63.3-11 (Nun Danken: Now Thank We All Our God)
Your steadfast love, O Lord, than life is better to me.
So I will praise Your Name, and bless You, Lord, most truly.
My soul is richly blest; to You my hands I raise,
and open now my mouth to offer joyful praise.

By night, Lord, fill my mind with pleasant meditation;
for You have been my help as ‘neath Your wings I station.
My soul clings, Lord, to You; I rest in Your Right Hand;
may all who seek my life in Your displeasure stand.

Unto the sword’s strong pow’r let our foes be delivered!
Pursue them to devour their mortal lives forever!
In God will we rejoice and glory in His grace;
but all who live by lies shall perish from His face.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore