Summary: How do you deal with a believer who has sinned, especially one who has sinned against you? Jesus gave precise instructions about how a believer should deal with someone he feels has sinned against in His second & last reference to His Church.
Eyewitness to the Messiah
When Someone Does (You) Wrong
Most of you are familiar with the Peanuts comic strip. In one of those comic strips Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and threatens him with her fist if he doesn’t. “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asks Linus. “These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”
“Which channel do you want?” asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”
Well, how many times have you wished that your fingers would get organized, and do something about what someone has done to you?
A lot of times the reason our fingers don't get organized in Lucy's fashion is that Jesus Christ is a part of our lives, and somehow loving one another doesn't seem to add up to giving someone a knuckle sandwich. Especially if that someone is another believer, and even if it seems that he or she might deserve it.
Well, this morning, we're going to talk about what to do when someone does you wrong, and that someone is another believer, a Christian, a brother or sister in Christ. Since obviously, a knuckle sandwich is not in a Christian's repertoire, and really doesn't solve much, how do you handle it when someone who claims to be a Christian, maybe a fellow member of your church, really does a number on you. Maybe they've swindled you out of some money, lied to you, gossiped about you, or slandered you in such a way that they have ruined your reputation or your relationship with others. Maybe they have even done something worse—maybe they have gone after your mate, or slept with him or her, or abused a son or daughter in some terrible way. How in the world do you deal with that? Yep, a knuckle sandwich is something you might be tempted to give, but you know that it's absolutely not what Jesus would want you to give, especially to another believer.
So this morning we continue in Matthew 18. Jesus has just covered the subject of pride vs. humility, with humbling ourselves even as a child coming out on top. But in the course of it He has managed to talk about how God will deal with people, in particular, unbelievers who cause those with childlike faith in Him to stumble, and to lose faith, sometimes permanently. He said it would be better for such a person if they had not been born.
Then he comes to the circumstance of what we are to do when a spiritual brother, or sister, does us wrong, or does a major wrong, whenever a brother or sister we know is involved in serious sin. How are we to respond?
And in short, Jesus says that when you've been wronged: Deal personally and privately at first, publicly only if necessary, but always carefully and prayerfully. Deal personally and privately at first, publicly only if necessary, but always carefully and prayerfully.
Now this passage is an incredibly important passage. I would say it is one of the most important passages in all of the Word of God about how to maintain a loving church family, how to make sure that the love and unity of the Spirit continues in a local church. Because this passage has often been ignored, there have been untold broken relationships, heartaches, bitterness, sin, and fractured fellowships. It has ruined many a reputation and many a ministry. If we as a church want to maintain the love and unity that we presently experience, there is no more important set of instructions in all of the Bible than what we have in these five verses. Unfortunately, I know this from many a painful personal experience.
And what sets this passage apart from almost all other passages in the Gospels is that it represents the second and last time Jesus refers to the church in all of his ministry. The church is not a building, but it consists of all believers who have trusted in Jesus Christ, the body of believers. The word church, the Greek word ekklesia, for called out ones, can refer either to the universal body of believers—all true believers in Jesus Christ the world over—or it can refer to a local body of believers, a local church, such as Risen King.
Now Jesus referred to the universal church the first time He used the Greek word ekklesia in Matthew 16:18. There He said to Peter, "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." The rock I believe Jesus was referring to there was the rock of Peter-like faith—the rock of Peter's confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. On this rock, Jesus would, in what at that time was the future, build His church. He would build His church of believers who would believe and confess the very same thing Peter had confessed—that Jesus was the Christ, or the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. So in Jesus' first use of the word "church," he told how He would in the future build His church. And in His second and last usage of the word church, I believe He tells how to prevent His church from being destroyed—He we can prevent His church from being split, fractured and destroyed. And that is by handling the sins of brothers and sisters against us in precisely the way that He outlines here—if necessary, going through all four steps precisely as He has outlined. Now this is very important--this is the very wisdom of God about how to handle the sins of believers, especially those against other believers, in such a way that we do not destroy the love and unity of the local church. You've got to notice how precise His instructions are, and that they are that way for a purpose. When we vary from them, the church ends up in disorder and experiences every kind of evil thing.