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Matthew 18

June 9, 2010

We talk about “Matthew 18” a lot around our church, and we’re usually referring to verses 15 through 17. It’s “The Matthew 18 Principal” here. It’s how to deal with difficult situations.

It basically outlines three steps:

  1. Talk to the person you have an issue with.
  2. If that doesn’t work, bring some trusted believers and talk to that person again.
  3. If that doesn’t work, talk to the Church about the issue.

The point is not to be gossipy – as Step 1 clearly demonstrates – but to encourage people with greater levels of intensity to make the right decision.

Knowing that, I’ve still thought – in the past – that Step 3 was a little harsh. It just seems … harsh. Really? Tell the congregation about it? Isn’t that a little nasty? Is it necessary? Wouldn’t that alienate the person involved?

But it’s starting to make sense. It’s odd how when an issue arises, instruction suddenly becomes clear.

18:17 is a little rough. It’s true. But I’m starting to understand why it’s brilliant.

If someone is doing something wrong, and they refuse to listen to friends about the issue, you have to turn your attention to the rest of the Church. We always want to keep problems on the DL. We don’t want to embarrass people. We want to pretend things are cool.

But – as hard as it is – I’m starting to see how it’s bad for the Church to not address issues publicly. When people refuse to change, and deal with their stuff, they become viral. If leadership pretends there’s nothing wrong, it looks like leadership is okay with what’s happening. It discourages people; it tears down holiness; it causes division.

Bringing someone and their issue to the congregation is so the congregation can pray and encourage that person. For sure. But I think it’s also – maybe mostly – for the good of the congregation.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. jeffrey permalink
    June 9, 2010 9:12 am

    I’ve experienced this. And it’s an interesting point you make. I agree that too long we have mamby pambied the word when it comes to discipline.

  2. cheri permalink
    June 9, 2010 11:27 am

    Even step 3, involving the church there should be “steps” that the church uses to deal with issues. Oh to have Godly leadership that dealt with situations correctly and Biblically instead of favortism and in the flesh……

    There are allot of churches out there that literally drag people on the stage belittling them without benefit of time seeking what is really going on. It was in the news recently about the young girl who was raped by her elder several times, only to come up pregnant. And what did her church do? The pastor made her stand up in front of the church saying she was pregnant and sinned without being allowed to say WHO did it to her.

    On the other hand, there are churches that have been counselling people for years and years and it’s getting no where. When you’re talking about couples where the spouse abuses the wife and kids, the man saying he’s sorry every counselling session and going right back to beating his family doesn’t cut it, nor does it Biblically.

    Thanks for the article.

    • June 10, 2010 1:05 pm

      Great post lex =] discipline is something no one wants to do, but being involved in ministry and seeing it both done well and not, it is necessary and something people don’t want to do

  3. June 9, 2010 11:18 pm

    I think it makes a lot of sense, although I do agree that it should be done with a certain degree of tact. It especially clicks for me when I think of this rule in terms of old testament law, where a person would be sent away or stoned for doing something inappropriate. Talking about a problem with the church seems way less harsh when you consider that :p

    But, in the end, I think the sentiment is similar. Ill-placed dissension really can be toxic. Even in day-to-day life I see this: I know I should be eating an apple or something else good for me, but my husband is eating ice cream. It’s a lot harder for me to eat the apple when I see him with the ice cream. (Cheesy fat kid example, I know…it was the first thing that came to mind).

  4. Lex permalink
    June 10, 2010 10:27 am

    I’ve heard some of those nasty stories about people being humiliated in front of a congregation, and I can’t imagine that’s what Paul is advocating. Because I can’t see that doing ANYTHING to help restore that person.

    Paul does not write that bringing it before the congregation should be done publicly. I’ve been trying to apply this lately and am thinking about how to pull aside groups of people at a time.

    If we have a problem with a volunteer in a particular team, for example, I’m thinking about first letting that person know that I need to “bring it before the congregation.” Then, maybe you sit down with the other members of that team to explain what’s happening and answer questions. After that, maybe you meet with family members and/or close friends who are part of the congregation and do the same thing.

    The motivation should still be to leave every opportunity open for the restoration of the individual, and for the health of the congregation – and that’s the only way I can think to do it.

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