But 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.' Matthew 18:16
This passage is one that we typically go to for “church discipline.” Someone has broken the rules concerning what “good Christians” should or should not do, so now they must be disciplined, aka “adios.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this process work as well as it could. But, we can learn much from the heart of this.
These instructions from Jesus Himself fall between two parables. The first parable tells of a loving shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep behind to find the one that has strayed. The second parable concerns a servant who is forgiven a tremendous debt by his master. Then, the servant turns around and shakes down a friend who owes him a few bucks.
These parables balance two truths when it comes to confronting other believers. The first is that when someone errs in their ways or is headed down the wrong path, it is our responsibility as his brothers and sisters to get involved. It’s not our place to pawn it off to the pastors. We have the relationship with him. If we love him, we’ll have the conversation.
The second parable balances the responsibility to confront with the nature of our approach. We have been forgiven, which means that we have also erred. If it wasn’t for another believer pointing the way for us, we would still be as lost as a goose. Our responsibility is not to chastise him for his rule breaking. As people who require God’s grace, we extend God’s grace to our brother.
If he won’t hear us, then we go to this verse above. We bring someone along with us. We find a mature believer who would come along with us and talk to them. This doesn’t mean that we solicit every person we know until we find someone who agrees with us. That would turn us into some sort of Christian Goldilocks. “This one’s too hard on him. This one’s too soft. This one’s just right…”
The idea here is not just to find someone to confirm that the offender is off base. This is also someone who confirms that we’re not off base. This is especially important if the other person has offended us or someone close to us. When it gets personal, it’s easy for our objectivity to fly out the window. That trust friend or wise advisor will keep us from making a fool out of ourselves. They might even keep us from the receiving end of confrontation.
Here’s the great thing that happens when we bring another believer into the equation: by adding one other believer, we end up with three. Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). The community of even just two believers invites the fellowship of Jesus Himself in a unique way.
What situation needs to be confronted in your life? Why have you hesitated? Where do you need to check in with another believer to make sure that you have your head on straight?
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