Summary: Submit yourself to the family of believers and experience the joy and wonder of a supernatural community.

The Power of a Humble Community

Matthew 18:15-20

Pastor Jim Luthy

At the beginning of the season, the Portland Trailblazers were considered a favorite to win the NBA championship. Their team consisted of no less than 6 former All-Stars and perhaps the greatest Soviet player in history. Through the course of the season, they added two additional former All-Stars. They had the highest payroll in the history of the league. At the end of March, the Portland Trailblazers had the best record in the NBA. By the end of March, they had fallen to 5th in their conference. In mid-April, as their slide continued, their most talented player was suspended for hitting a teammate with a towel. Finishing 7th in the conference (remember, just 8 weeks earlier they had the best record in the league), they were eliminated after losing their first three games of the playoffs.

What happened to one team, one dream? In the papers and on the radio you keep hearing one word: chemistry.

The right chemistry can make an ordinary group of individuals extraordinary. The wrong chemistry can ruin a collection of superstars. The power of chemistry is not too difficult to observe. Everybody can see it in the Blazers.

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus is giving a lesson in chemistry. His lesson is not too difficult to figure out. It’s very practical teaching on relationships. If we follow his directions, we’ll learn to get along, to sharpen one another, and to be different than any other organization. The beauty of his lesson is that if you set it in the supernatural context of his kingdom, it’s like setting a fine jewel on a gold ring. It’s beautiful. It’s inviting. And it’s priceless.

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 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.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.( Matt 18:15-17)

Jesus’ teaching answers for us the question of what to do if a brother sins against you. What to do is quite plain and easy to understand. What we must be careful about, however, is whether or not our particular conflict applies. There are three critical qualifiers that determine for us whether or not Jesus’ teaching applies.

The first qualifier is whether or not the person with whom you have conflict is a brother. If the person you must confront does not claim the word of God as their standard, you have no basis on which to make your claim. You might be able to appeal to their conscience, but you come with no real authority. A brother, however, has a standard to which you can call him or her to account.

The second qualifier is whether or not the brother has sinned. There is too much confrontation going on that is not based on sin. People whine and complain and grovel and gossip over things that have more to do with differences in personality and style than with sin. I know of one man who, on a number of occasions, accused people in the church of not loving him because they weren’t as eager to hug him every time they saw him as he was eager to hug everybody he saw! Some people just aren’t comfortable with hugs. It is important that we qualify our approach of others with a clear violation of God’s standard, not ours.

The third qualifier, quite frankly, may not exist. Your Bible says "if your brother sins against you." Some earlier manuscripts do not have this qualifier—they just say "if your brother sins, go and show him his fault." I tend to think this is more accurate in the context of the entire Scripture. Was David sinning against Nathan when Nathan confronted him about his murder of Uriah and his affair with Bathsheba? Were Ananias and Saphira sinning against Peter when he confronted them about dipping into the church treasury? No and no. David confessed to God, "against you and you alone have I sinned." Peter told those offering-robbers they "have not lied to men, but to God." Listen, if your brother is having an affair, even if it’s not with you, go and show him his fault!

So, Jesus gives a very clear, practical way of dealing with a brother who sins. Step 1: Go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. The purpose here is to win your brother over.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for us in this situation is the specific directions to make it a matter between the two of us. Far too often, between the time of the sin and the going to show him his fault, we have conversations with others that begin with "you wouldn’t believe what so-and-so did." Or, if we want to spiritualize it, we ask, "Pray for me, I have to go and talk to so-and-so about…"

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