Reading this will make you uncomfortable…

What is more uncomfortable than discussing sexual addiction?  Recently I have been confronted with this issue.

Matthew 18 says:

15“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

I have a series of questions I would like answered followed by a test you can take to see if this info applies to you:

1. Is this optional?

2. What does it look like?

3. Does this happen?

To answer my own questions, there is nothing in the text that would indicate to me that this is optional. As for what it looks like, I do not know. I have heard fairy tale type stories of this happening but have never personally experienced it. As for the third question, I guess I have always assumed that it happens but the type of stories I hear seem to be in “extreme cases” that by then is usually too late, which leads me to ask 2 more questions. 

4. Is this verse for “extreme” cases?

5. Why is this verse here and what happens when we ignore it?

If you are anything like me you grew up with an understanding that this verse is to be practiced when the sin that is being committed is so extreme and destructive that it cannot possibly be ignored anymore. So, in other words, the commands in this verse are viewed as a last resort. In order to see if this is a healthy viewpoint I think we need to answer question #5. 

For all of the negative press this idea gets it seems to me like this idea is actually presented as a gift to the church. The passage itself is smashed between two parables one talking about God pursuing the “lost sheep” and the forgiveness of Christ being told from the perspective of an unforgiving servant. So why is this passage more of a threat than a gift? If we even wanted too, what would keep us all from jumping in with this idea tomorrow? Keep in mind, we must not be looking at this from a merely a discipline perspective but from a perspective of restoration and growth. I believe that there are 2 beliefs that you must believe very strongly to predicate a decision of this nature. 

1. Sin is harmful and dangerous. 

2. We are connected. 

If you see sin damaging another believer and you believe what I Corinthians says about us being a body (If one part suffers, every part suffers with it) then out of concern for the person and the body of Christ you will engage in a process that will promote healing. 

The TestAnswer these questions:

Do you know of any people (who consider themselves Christians) that have committed an event or are engaged in a lifestyle that you would consider sinful or destructive to themselves and/or the people around them?

Do  you ever find yourself discussing or wanting to discuss someone else’s sin or destructive behavior with someone other than the source?

If you answered “Yes” to either of the above questions there is a good chance that you should have been involved with a confrontation/restoration process that is presented in Matthew 18. This brings me to the final question:

Have you confronted anyone that you think has a sin issue or lifestyle that has been destroying either themselves or the people around them this week? month? year? lifetime?

If not…

Either you do not believe that sin is harmful, do not believe that we are connected, or all of the people in your network are already dealing with their sin in the most productive and healthy way possible. Am I missing any options?

Next post will include the method for this to work as well as the main obstacles that will keep it from happening. 

Questions? Comments? Push back? Am I off my rocker?


7 thoughts

  1. Ben, you are not off of your rocker…this is the tough stuff of actually being and becoming the beautiful gospel community that Jesus died for. So tough, but so loving. I loved your analogy of a guy being rescued and then the rescuers feeling the need to remind him that they love him… Crazy! But we are so locked up and fearful of man and wrapped around the spokes of human approval that we feel this way. Wow. Thanks for the dialog…

  2. Caesar, thanks for your response. I was wondering…Have you ever seen this? Seems like you’ve been at churches all over. I was wondering if this is the chicken or egg first question. If you have the correct structure will this happen or if Christians did this will the structure take care of itself? I can picture this in my head but for the life of me I have not seen it or talked to anyone who has. Would love to hear some testimony.

  3. Stephanie, Thanks for your response. I’ll bet you’re not the only one who was uncomfortable in reading a “formula” of this nature. In regards to your response these 2 thoughts came into my head:
    1. It is not MY formula or MY promise. I did draw some conclusions on my own which are totally up for debate.
    2. Beyond this formula there is a very, very deep essence. And that is love. I think the formula is exactly that…a formula or a methodology. But it is only as effective or powerful as the force behind it and without it, it is nothing.

  4. I like that you say that the formula is only as powerful as the force behind it. But when the force behind it is love, i think it probably ceases to be a formula at all. So that’s what makes me uncomfortable about applying a formula to it at all. I just don’t think God/love operates out of formulas.

  5. So, my push back to some of our conversation about this is what it really means to “sin AGAINST your brother.” Though, in principle I believe that every time we do something that is not by faith it is sin (Romans 14:23) and that anytime we don’t do something that we know we should it is sin (James 2 or 3? or something), I don’t know what I truly believe about whether these are all “against” our brothers. It seems that you’re proposing that Matt 18 shouldn’t be reserved for certain situations. I do, again in principle, believe that every time we sin it does in some weird way that I don’t really understand fully affect the church that we call our body. However, I struggle to believe deeply that my mistreatment of a student of mine during the school day directly affects the body I fellowship with. My problem is that, similarly to you probably, I would typically default to an extreme form of openness and nakedness in our lives so as to stay as far away from sin as possible. So, I really want to believe that Matt 18 is claiming that we should approach each other in every recognized sinful situation, but I just don’t know one way or the other. Regardless, I will say that I think we would all be better off in the end speaking directly into our brothers’ and sisters’ lives regularly as opposed to waiting for the sin to completely and practically ruin someone’s life.

    So, after all this stream of consciousness . . . God wants us to come into the light. Our fallen nature desires deeply to stay in the dark. We must as disciples of Christ drag our family members kicking and screaming, if necessary, into the light as He was in the light. This I believe requires us to be consistent though non-formulaic in our practice of Matt 18.

  6. I spend a bit of time wondering what sin is exactly. I think we misunderstand it sometimes. We wipe the naughty chololate stains from our mouth with the tissue of grace, grinning all the while.

    Yet sin is not just doing “naughty” things and enjoying it. It is pride, it is shaking your fist in the face of God and denying you need His help to overcome your human condition.

    I grew up thinking I had to avoid all sin, and not do anything on the long list of things that were bad. I have now come to see it as more of a heart condition. Trying endlessly to avoid those things on the “list” usually just ends up in self-righteousness or false guilt.

    Hmmm… I don’t have the answers.

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