“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.” —Matthew 18:15
Where there are people, conflict is inevitable. Jesus knows that we are sinful and that the struggle with sin will continue in the church. Hence, He provides a process on how to deal with sin in community. In Matthew 18, Jesus calls His disciples to a costly process of reconciliation: one that is rooted in the acknowledgment of sin that can creep up in community, one that speaks the truth in love to the other person who has sinned against us, and one that works towards harmony in our relationship and leans deeply into the teachings of what it means to walk with Jesus. This is Jesus’s call to His disciples, even in the midst of difficult situations. To not do this is to simply let sin spread within the church.
Jesus provides a beautiful promise in the midst of the process. When we confront our brothers and sisters of their sin one-on-one and they listen to us, Jesus tells us, “…you have won them over” (Matthew 18:15). But “won them over” to what? Firstly, we have won them back from something that was destroying their life and from walking down the path of darkness. Secondly, we have won them back into fellowship with Jesus, the Church and us. Thirdly, we have won them back to the life and leading of Jesus Christ as they repent and let go of harmful behaviours that affect the community, and begin to live in the fullness of what Christ has for them. Overall, we have won them back into reconciliation, relationship and harmony.
As painful as it is to confront someone of their sin, this is something beautiful because there is transformation and a deep experience of Jesus in the midst. While we have to acknowledge that the process is not easy, it is life-giving. In an ideal world, where both parties are pursuing Christ, this works out beautifully and we have “won them over.” Jesus provides this teaching in the context of His death, burial and resurrection on behalf of sinners; He says, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Although it is going to be hard, it is part of His formation in us. There is a gift of experiencing Jesus communally and a gift of learning what it means to take up our cross and walk with Him.
May we ask Jesus to stir up within us a desire and a longing to experience the fullness of all that He has for us in a vertical relationship as well as in the horizontal relationships that we have in our lives.
Lord Jesus, thank You for this hard yet beautiful process of reconciliation. I ask for Your guidance and Your help as I navigate through the different and difficult relationships. Amen!