15“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.16But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.17If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
This is simple practical advice from our Lord, and I really don’t think it needs a lot of explaining. It does need a lot of implementing. Think about how much easier it is for us to complain to all our friends and anyone else who will listen, about how awful so-and-so treated us or talked to us etc. But that is not the Lord’s way. When we are wronged we are commanded keep it private. We talk directly to the offender and give them a chance to reconcile. If it is important enough and they refuse, we still keep it in a small group. Only if it is serious and the offender just won’t come around, do we make it public. And all of this is to be done within the christian church community, not through the public courts.
18“I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
It is unknown for certain if Jesus is speaking to us all here (Matthew 18:1 says Jesus was addressing the “disciples”), or just the twelve, but it is the same wording that Jesus earlier addressed to Peter (Matthew 16:9). We are reading this as a letter to us, so what can we safely infer it means to us? I personally read this and think I should be very careful about my judgements, because perhaps I personally will have to live with them for all eternity. I need to be neither to harsh, or too lenient. In all things, I need to follow Jesus.
19“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.20For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
I don’t think this means if two or three of us get together and ask for a new car we will get it. I think this verse belongs with those above it. I really think Jesus is saying this: “When you are considering matters of discipline and behavior, get together with a few and pray. When you do that, I will be among you and guide you to a good a proper agreement. My Father will listen and instruct and guide you and make your decision work for the best in the long run.” I know I am being brave in putting words in Jesus mouth, so remember, my paraphrase could be entirely wrong. On the other hand, those of you with children, if you and your spouse prayed before every time you disciplined your kids on a serious matter, how much better would your families be?
Lord, keep me from being a gossip. Help me to handle the hurts that will surely come my way with Your patience, kindness, goodness, mercy and love. Help me be wise and consult with the wisdom of others. And when I bring others together to consult with them, give me the boldness to openly pray for Your presence and guidance. Beginner’s Online Bible Study *obbs*