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