Matthew 18:15-20 – Are We Any Different From the World Around Us?

Posted: February 4, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus on Church Discipline
In today’s world, it is hard to trust anyone. We have contracts for everything to hold people to their word. In the South of years gone by, a handshake was a contract. One of the most famous examples of this honorable way of doing business was Charlie Daniel, the founder of Daniel Construction Co., Inc. (acquired by Fluor Corporation in 1988). Daniel Construction was either first or second largest construction company in the world at the time it was acquired by engineering rival, Fluor Corporation. Charlie Daniel was a giant of a man in South Carolina. He was a giant in Greenville society. He and men like him in his day laid the groundwork for Greenville, SC being the unique gem of a city that it is today. He was revered and still is here in South Carolina as an example of a man who did things the right way, the honorable way. He was the quintessential Southern gentlemen. It is amazing when you think that some of the major deals that he executed were done with a simple handshake and no contract.

His trademarks were his handshake, the quality of his construction work, and the speed with which he completed it. During a 10-year period, his work for Roger Milliken and Deering Milliken Company involved 10 new mills and a number of additions—worth $20 million (worth probably $200 million in 2016 dollars)— without a contract, formal agreement, or a single line of writing. Milliken trusted Daniel’s judgment as much as his honesty. Timeliness, quality, and speed were the policies and basic philosophy of “the Daniel Way,” a sacred legacy in the Daniel Construction family of employees. Charlie Daniel was known for his integrity, his work ethic, and the quality of his character. His company reflected his values. When you were a Daniel employee, you were respected for whom you worked for. When you were a Daniel employee, you were expected to have integrity yourself. If you mishandled a situation or did poor quality work, you were expected to make it right for the customer without question. If you did not have honor, you would lose your job at Daniel Construction Co., Inc. (DCC). Charlie believed that the reputation of the company was its most important asset.

Gone are those days though. In today’s world, it is difficult to find companies like the old DCC that were filled with people of honor. Now, it is difficult to find people that see their work as being about honor and duty and integrity. We live in a world where getting whatever we can for the least amount of work seems to be the trend. We now live in a world where people live by situational ethics, meaning that how they react to a situation depends on the circumstances and whether it is to their personal advantage or not. Particularly in the cutthroat world of construction, it is rare to find a contractor that won’t try to wiggle their way out of making good on their promises. Now, construction work is full of massive contracts. Could you imagine building or repairing a house nowadays without a contract with the contractor much less building multiple textile manufacturing plants without a contract like Charlie Daniel did for Roger Milliken?

In today’s world, you word is almost meaningless. We tend to go back on our word when it suits us and especially when it causes us to lose advantage. The church is no different. Divorce among churchgoers is equal to or greater than in the general population. Lawsuits between churchgoers are equal to or greater than the number of lawsuits between people in the general population. Adultery and other sexual sin are as rampant among churchgoers as they are among the general population. However, doing wrong to one another within the fellowship of believers is not supposed to be handled in the same way as the world around us. Jesus gave us instruction on how to handle those who sin against us and hurt each other within the flock of believers when he said the following in Matthew 18:15-20:

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

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Jesus knew that if we did not have honor within the church that there would be nothing that set us apart from the rest of the world. Why should the world follow Jesus if His representatives are no more trustworthy than the world around them? We should desire to have honor to honor the one that we follow. If we sin against each other within the fellowship then what do we have to offer to the world that is different from the world in which we find ourselves. We must be ambassadors of Christ to a world that is looking for something different and something that is missing in their world. We must keep our house straight so it looks different and attractive to a sick and dying world.

Jesus tells us that we must confront each other within the flock when there is unrepentant sin being displayed by a fellow member. The first thing we must do is to check ourselves. What are our motives for doing so? If it is anything less than love for the one who is sinning then we have the wrong motives. Every act of confrontation about sin must be done with the intent of getting a person to recognize it and repent of it and be restored. We are not to use the right of church discipline to be a battering ram or a bullying technique. Restoration and love should always be our aim. We must check our own cabinets for hidden sin as well before we approach someone about their sin. We are to hold each other accountable in love. We are to encourage each other toward holiness. If a person within the fold has cheated you or done wrong to you, we should not gossip behind their back. We should go straight to them and discuss it with the intent of restoring the relationship. We must make every effort to restore relationships. If a person sins against you, the offending person should realize that they have hurt you and make it right. We as Christians are not perfect people. We will hurt each other from time to time. We must have the humility to admit when we are wrong and work to make things right with the person whom we have hurt. That is different definitely from the world around us. How much more attractive would the church be to the outside world if it was filled with people that admitted when they were wrong and made things right with one another. How much more attractive would the church be if we worked things out with each other in love rather than trying to get even with equally hurtful words or deeds

What if the one who has offended us or sinned against us or has done something or is doing something that is blatantly against God’s Word does not want to admit that they have done wrong. What if they do not see their sin? What if they do not want to give up their sin? What if a fellow Christian is committing is having an affair but refuses to disengage from it? What if someone steals from another church member in some way but does not admit that they have done wrong and doesn’t see it as wrong? What if they refuse to make things right for whatever sin they have committed? They justify their sin and blame others for them having to commit the sin? We are then to have what they would have called on the show, How I Met Your Mother, an “intervention.” On that show, when one of the gang of friends was doing something destructive to themselves or to the friendship of the gang, they would all call a meeting to confront the one friend with the issue. That is what we are supposed within the church when one on one attempts at restoration do not work. We should confront the person with a group of his or her peers. We are to have an intervention. If that doesn’t work then we are to bring the issue before the entire body of believers. If the person refuses to repent of their sin, they are then to be excommunicated from the body of believers until they repent of their sin.

This all sounds pretty brutal doesn’t it? But maybe it is not. Isn’t it true that one of the hallmarks of a Christian, a true follower of Christ, is that we are humble. If we are truly humble, if we are truly faithful, available and teachable, then we can admit that we are wrong and change our behavior when our sins are pointed out to us. If we are humble, we can admit that we made a mistake in judgment that hurt our marriage and attempt to restore it rather than get a divorce. If we are humble followers of Christ, we will accept correction and make things right with the family that I did construction work for that was faulty. Maybe, when confronted with my sin, I make good on a financial promise that I made to someone. If it gets to the point where we have to have a church-wide tribunal, then are we really saved? Are we really followers of Christ?

One of the things about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is that He points out our sins and revolts us. We are not prideful. We are humble. We wish to be more like Christ. We seek to be more like Him. Help us to be more holy, Lord. Help us to seek that which is of you and shun that which is not of you. Help us to be people of integrity, honor, and love. Help us to be so different, in a Jesus way, from the world that it attracts the world to us. Help our actions and our words to be validation of our witness. Help us ourselves and with the help of loving and caring friends to identify our weaknesses and our blind spots to our sins. Helps to submit to you and clean those things out of our lives so that we can be attractive to the world outside our doors. Help us to be more like Jesus so that we can witness to the world about who He is.

Amen and Amen.

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