Matthew 18:10-20 (ESV)
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Jesus taught that every human life is important to God. All little ones are under his care, and he doesn’t want any of them to end up lost. In verse 15, Jesus discusses what Christians, who are also incredibly valuable to the Father, should do when one sins against another. According to Jesus, the first step is for the two to try to reconcile on their own without involving anyone else. Jesus said that the one sinned against needs to state the problem to the sinner. The text literally says, “Go,” meaning the one who was sinned against needs to start this process. If the two resolve the issue, the sin can be repented of and forgiven, and the matter should never be brought up again. It is critically important to Jesus that believers work out their differences. So much so that he adds if the sinning sister won’t repent, then two or three witnesses should be brought into the discussion (v. 16). This process is all done with the goal of making things right. Finally, if the sinner still refuses to listen, then church leadership should come alongside the parties to achieve restoration. If that fails, and the sinner still refuses to turn from her ways, then the church leaders are called to remove her from the congregation until she is ready to repent (v. 17).
How wonderful if Christians would follow the pattern Jesus gives here! Far too often, we go to others before we go to the one who has sinned against us. And when we finally approach the sinning sister, we go with a harsh and critical attitude, not motivated to achieve reconciliation. Most of our problems with one another could be handled in a way that honors God if we worked them out on our own. But sadly, for some, the thrill of the fight brings excitement to their lives, and they don’t seek reconciliation because they don’t want to drop the matter. Let us be careful, extremely watchful, and always sure to initiate reconciliation with our sisters one-on-one when we have been sinned against. Let’s do whatever we can to promote holiness and harmony between all believers. God is our Father. We are his kids. He wants us to get this right. What a testimony we could be to the love and life of Jesus if we put this admonition into practice.