I am re-sharing this post while golfing and seeing friends and family in Texas and Tennessee. I took this picture in Fort Worth on Tuesday, December 20, 2011.
Moreover 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. But 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 if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:15-17
This counsel rarely ever gets followed. How much better our world and church would be if people would follow this counsel from Jesus. Here is what I have seen happen too often. Someone actually tries to follow this counsel, but when they go to step 2 and get a brother to go along, the brother perceives it as gossip and does not want to meddle in the situation even though this is exactly what Jesus says to do. Or, instead of the third party being neutral, they get an ear load from one side and go into the meeting very biased. And even more sadly, I have talked with church leaders who passed judgment on another member without ever hearing their side of the story or going to them personally first, and they clearly admitted they did not follow the counsel of Matthew 18 because they already had all the evidence without needing to follow Matthew 18. What? You don’t need to follow Bible counsel because you already have the full scoop? Since when was following the Bible optional? Apparently it happens all the time. This to me is the most sad situation of the three, because the people not following Matthew 18 know they are not following it and don’t care, but still think they are fit to be church leaders while intentionally ignoring Bible counsel.
Before many churches can heal and move forward in proclaiming the gospel, they need to make sure they are following the gospel themselves. We need to make sure we follow Matthew 18 when a problem arises and go to our brother one on one without anyone else knowing. Most problems can be resolved at step one. If not, then step two means we should take along another party who can hear both sides of the story at the same time, and not get an ear full from one side before they even get to talk to the other side. This is stacking the deck in ones favor, very easy for humans to do, but with God’s grace we can avoid this temptation especially if we are honestly wanting truth to win. Thirdly take it to the church. At this point the church should not be afraid to handle the matter. It is not gossip at this point, it is Bible counsel. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul tells the church it will be judging angels and needs to be judging its own issues.