Ok, we have been through a lot in this series on conflict. I hope the Lord has been working in you as much as he has in me to help us all be better at dealing Biblically with conflict. Again, I want to remind you that is you have missed any of the messages, please go back and listen to them online.
We are going to be looking at step four of the Matthew 18 process that Jesus gives His disciples for dealing with conflict. Lets do as we have the past few weeks. Lets read the passage, and then focus on the fourth step.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosedfn in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
OK, so before we get into what it looks like to treat someone as a Gentile and a Tax Collector, we need to back up a bit and think about what it means to be in the Church. In this discussion, we all need to understand that the Church, or body of Christ has benefits, and it has authority.
What if I told you that you could be a part of a group of people who are bound together in a way like no other. People from every background, socioeconomic level, every color, and class. All bound together with love for one another that is rarely seen. These people lay down their lives for one another, care for each other. They lift one another up in difficult times, and walk through trials holding each other up. This group will lift you when you are weak, rejoice when you overcome, they will be a shoulder to cry on, and an ear when you need to sound off. There are people in this group who have walked through life in your shoes. Seasoned parents who can give you advice with your children, and help you with your finances. Young people who can help you watch your kids, and who you can pour into as you mentor them.
Being a part of this group of people will have a major impact on your life. They will help you become a better employee, boss, son, daughter, husband, wife, student, father, mother, citizen. Overall, this group will help you to become more of the person God created you to be. This group will help you to see Jesus better, and to help you grow more into HIs image.
Who wouldn’t want to join a group like that? I think we all would right? So, how do you join a group like that? Well, the truth that we all know is that what I am describing is what the Church should look like. The truth is that your salvation puts you into this family. If you are in Christ, you should be benefiting from membership in this body. I am not sure about you, but I know two things that are true for my life, 1 is that I need all of the support that the body of Christ gives, and 2. I experience that support on a daily basis at Emmaus.
If you are in Christ, and consider yourself a Christian, you too need the community and fellowship of the body. If you are receiving that here, Awesome! If you are not experiencing that at Emmaus, there are a couple possible reasons, you might not be plugged in and living in community with the believers here, or we may be lacking in our care for you.
So, one more thing about this community. We discussed how you become a member of this community, by salvation, but what does that really mean? In part it means that you admit that you are a sinner and need forgiveness of sins. You admit that you cannot earn your salvation, or obey the commands of God. Furthermore, that truth isn’t just true at the moment you believe, it is true for every day you live. In fact, the first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses is that all of a Christian’s life is one of repentance. So, it doesn’t just happen once, it should be happening every day of your life. You wake up each day recognizing that you need a savior, in fact, all of the benefits that I mentioned in the beginning, all require an attitude of humility and repentance…another way to look at it is that when you become a Christian you place yourself under the authority of Jesus Christ. So, there are benefits of a relationship with Jesus, but those come by placing yourself under His authority.
So, now that we have established a little bit of a reminder of the benefits of community are, what does it mean if someone has been living a life of unrepentant sin? What if they have been confronted by a friend, and then by two friends, and then by the whole church? How is the body of Christ to handle such a person?
Well, we have the answer here in this text. We recognize that by their actions and their lack of repentance, they are separating themselves from the primary benefits of being a part of the body. The way that we recognize this separation is to treat them as someone who is outside of the body of Christ.
So, what does that mean exactly?
Well, I had the question a few weeks ago about the difference between two translations. One said Heathen, and the other said Gentile, both said Tax collector. So, in looking into it, really, it is not a major difference. In the context, the term is referring to people who are in deliberate rebellion against God. People who are outside of the family of faith that we have been brought into. So, how do we treat them?
I want to look at what we don’t do, and what we do.
Don’ts: Act like nothing has changed… condone their behavior… Allow them to lead… Trust them as you would a fellow believer…
Do’s: Show them love.. Plead for their repentance… Share the Gospel… hold out hope… pray for them.
We treat them the way that Jesus treated us when we were far off.
The reminder in Ephesians 2:11-22
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,fn but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God byfn the Spirit.