Multiple Choice? – Matthew 18

On many tests from elementary school to college a popular format is what we know as “multiple choice.” You are taught that if you do not know the correct answer outright, you should try to eliminate the wrong answers to the best of your ability and choose the option that is “most likely” the answer. This would make things easy for students who didn’t really know the answer to narrow things down to get a better chance of making the right choice.

Though we have many options and choices on tests and in life in general, there is one area in our life where we cannot pick and choose. I hope we would all agree that we can’t pick and choose when it comes to the words of Christ. For example, the Sermon on the Mount is a beautiful instructive lesson for the student (disciple) of Christ to hear and obey. We wouldn’t be good “students” if we decided to heed some of his teachings and ignore others.

Jesus’ words serve as the directions to Paradise. Each one is important to follow in order to get to our desired destination. Though we at times miss a turn, back-tracking and getting back on the narrow highway is critical.

So, in light of this, what about this one?

Matthew 18:15-17 – “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 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.”

Jesus spoke words like this for a reason. He knew that problems would arise and he wanted us to deal with them the right way. He gives us here the right way to respond to the situation of a brother sinning.

For some reason though, we rarely follow his model. Why is that? What stops us as individuals and even churches from following this direction from Christ’s words? Perhaps it is our own fear, pride, or _(fill in your challenge here) _, that gets in the way. However, perhaps I need to go to the Father in prayer when I am challenged in this area.

Of course there are qualifications on this verse that are given in Scripture elsewhere (like Galatians 6:1-2, Matthew 7:1-5, John 7:24, etc) and we do not want to busy ourselves looking around at everyone else, but we cannot forget the direction of our Lord here. We can argue over what it means to ”tell it to the church” in our modern context, but before we get there – there are two other steps before that that seem pretty clear.

In my own experience, had I and others followed the given method of Christ, there would not have been division, continuance in sin, or even bitterness. Also from my own experience, when a brother or sister has approached me out of their love for me and God and privately shown me my fault, I have been grateful. My experience is by no means the standard for how things should be, but I can speak to the beauty of Jesus’ followers heeding his words on this matter. Now, it does not always “feel good”, but for the mature Christian, humility sinks and repentance can happen – so in the end, it is “good.”

What stops us from following the direction of our Lord on this matter?

Why do you think Jesus commands us on this matter as he does?

What does it mean to treat someone (after going through all three steps) as a
“Gentile” or “tax collector?”

Are we willing to adopt our Lord’s way? Or are we going to pick and choose?

Let’s talk about it as a family…


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