Jesus is the example of what to do when wronged
Might I offer some help from the Bible? Read Chapter 18 of Matthew known as the “Community Discourse.” You’ll find careful steps laid out beginning in verse 15. But, just like the three most important things in real estate are location, location and location, the three most important in Bible study are context, context, context.
The entire chapter is necessary to understand our approach to following verses 15-20 on restoring a broken relationship. Our lesson begins with outspoken Peter asking “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? First, in verses 1-5, Jesus explains that there is a community of believers who must see themselves humbly committed to God and to each other because of what God committed to them in sending Jesus to the cross to pay the penalty due for their crimes.
Second, in verses 6-9, He teaches about the greatest are those who respect the small. He then says that we must change the way we live and become like children. I like to say we must hang a U-turn in the middle of the highway of life, pull over and surrender the driver’s seat to our Lord. We then become totally dependent on God and totally obedient like a child. I try my best to follow God because, “my Daddy said so.” Anybody ever heard that answer — “because I said so?” Notice, Jesus warns about what happens to people who lead others astray from the life and beliefs He wants in the community.
There are two parables seasoned into the teaching. The first called “The Parable of the Lost Sheep” in verses 10-14 teaches about being great is about seeking the lost. It models how we should look at our lost brother. Our Father is a lost-sheep-seeking type who sent His only Son to restore us. Likewise, we must be lost-sheep-seekers willing to leave the homestead, family and our community, to go and restore a brother or sister.
In verses 15-20 Jesus talks about the greatest being one who seeks to restore and reinstate. Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you … “brother” is used because they are in community (sister works too). The word “sin” can be misread. Yes, “sin” is commonly understood as against God. In the original language, however, it meant missing the mark, doing wrong. The point is that any offense against a family member of the community is ultimately against God. See how David’s crimes against many are addressed in Psalm 51:4.
Now, the steps: Go to the person alone to be fair, to keep it private and to be fair in hearing them out. If they won’t listen come back with two-three friends as witnesses to establish and uphold the truth in the midst.
If they still won’t listen or hear you, bring members of the church authority. Notice, this is a last resort. When you have a problem, in the church, are you guilty of going to the pastor instead of the person? And don’t go to get even, sentence and condemn, but to restore. And then you can “write them off”, yes? No. Jesus’ next step, is to treat them as a non-believer. That doesn’t mean separating them out. Don’t our churches welcome and want them in our church?
Finally, verses 21-35 close with Jesus telling a parable modeling that being great is being a forgiver. When you read it, you’ll find a king (God) forgiving a servant (us) a God-size amount (in today’s terms, billons of dollars), and then the servant is not forgiving of another who owes maybe $4,000.
See that Jesus closes with an eternal life-threatening warning to us who would choose not to behave. I’m going to do what my Father says, the next time I have a problem with a brother or sister.
Pastor Bill Baltz is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.