Matthew 18:15-17

(Jesus said:) “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they 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 they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Many bad things are happening in the world today, but you don’t need me to tell you that. It’s in the news every day. And, as much as we may wish there wasn’t, there are also a lot of bad things happening in the church, but you don’t need me to tell you that either. The question is: what do we do? What do we do, for instance, when a person in a position of leadership and authority says or does something inappropriate? Or another member of the congregation?

A specific example might make this easier to understand. You are a woman helping out in your church, and a man serving in the church—it could be in any capacity—makes an inappropriate advance towards you. What do you do, keeping in mind that as followers of Jesus, our reactions must be loving?

Jesus offers some sensible advice in the passage we are reflecting upon today. The first thing he says we need to do is to talk to the person! Talk TO the person, not ABOUT the person. We usually talk to others about what the person has done, and now with social media, we have an excellent platform to air our grievances. And I see people airing them all the time. It saddens me because this is not what the Christian does. And what does it solve?

The Christian talks to the person. He might be a man (or woman) who is lonely and in need of some companionship but is going about it the wrong way. Help him understand this, and if you are loving but firm, there is a good chance he will stop. And what if he doesn’t listen? Jesus tells us the next step too. Take a couple of friends with you, preferably mutual friends, and again try to make the person see sense.

And what if he still doesn’t listen? Well, you take it to the church authorities and ask for their intervention. If the offender still doesn’t listen to reason, which will rarely happen if the situation is handled with charity, then Jesus says to treat the person as you would a person of the world: let the world take him to task. But remember, for the Christian, this should be the last resort.

And also remember, talk TO the person, not ABOUT the person.

May the Spirit be with you.

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