Summary: How do we deal with anger, sin and disagreement in our communities? Does Matt 18:15-17 inspire us to deep dastedely discipline or do we need to read it in the context of the rest of Matthew 18?

How do we handle Sin? Anger? Conflict? Disagreement?

Human beings are not very good at dealing with these things.

“She’s not my friend any more”

“She said this”

“he did that”

It happens at school, and we adults keep doing it.

According to some statistics I found (they are American, but I expect they would be the same here)

one out of every five people has an anger management problem.

According to FBI statistics, there were 23,305 homicides in 1994 and the most common reason was arguments occurring in the home (28%). Gang related killings accounted for only 7.6%.

Anger related violence is the reason stated for 22% of divorces of middle-class marriages

Road rage" seems to be increasing exponentially. In Denver, Colorado a 51 year-old man used a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol to kill a 32 year-old bicyclist who cut him off on the road (The Denver Post, 21 June 2000).

[statistics taken from a sermon by Paul Dixon on this site]

In terms of talking about it - stories about how people handle it badly are much more funny than stories about people handling relationships well.

If you do something that really annoys me and I throw a custard pie at you everyone else will find that far more funny than if we sit down reasonably, sort our problem out, and become best of friends again.

Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclist- of the Hell’s Angels type- decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his french fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it.How do you think he responded? He calmly rose, picked up the check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, “Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?” She replied, “I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot.”

[Illustration from a sermon by Jeff Simms]

stories about how people handle it badly are much more funny than stories about people handling relationships well.

but reality is not like that.

conflict is corrosive

As one priest put it “Anger builds up like rust, appears in the most unexpected corners of our hearts and is never quite done away with. Just when we think we have resolved this problem, another piece of our emotional machinery breaks off and we grind to a halt, just when we thought we were making progress”

[Euan Marley OP in a sermon on the website www.torch.op]

SO we have this bible passage about Discipline in the church

“15 ‘If another member of the church* sins against you,* go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.* 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.”

If those people misbehave in our community, lets go and tell them off (wag finger dramatically)

Lots of churches down the centuries have interpreted this passage in that way.

Lot’s of finger wagging. Lots of telling people off. Lots of telling people who don’t fit in to our church to go away.

Some of the older children in this church may have read “Grace” by Morris Gleitzman. It’s a story Jessica recommended to me. It’s a story about a young girl growing up in a rather strict independent church in Australia. as the first lines put it

“In the beginning there was me and Mum and Dad and the twins. And talk about happy families, we were bountiful. But it came to pass that I started doing sins. And lo, that’s when all our problems began…”

And so, for asking awkward questions and not behaving the way she is meant to, this 1o year old girl gets “disciplined” - first one person comes to talk to her, then a couple of representatives of the church, then she is publically shamed in front of the church and forced to live behind a curtain in her own house, because her own family aren’t allowed to socialise with her.

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