Sunday 6th September 2020
I hope and pray that this letter finds you well. The issue of sin is never an attractive subject to preach on or one that people readily want to hear about. However, it is important because as humans we all sin and make mistakes in our lives. The issue is how we deal with the sin in the first place and then how we move on ensuring that we don’t make the same mistake again. This is never easy. I was once told by another preacher that if you’re invited to a church to preach and you preach on sin you won’t be invited back! That’s because we don’t like to be reminded that we are sinners and all sin, we prefer sermons that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, this though is not always possible.
This week, in Matthew 18: 15-20, Jesus continues to instruct the disciples. This particular passage forms part of a block of teaching which concerns the relationship between Jesus’ followers who are seen as a distinct community. The verses 15-20, deal with sin in the church. It is thought that these verses were originally separated but have now been amalgamated; the key element however is the overall meaning of them. Resolving issues in the church both gently and carefully concerns both speaking and listening to the people involved. Listening is very important, often in cases where there is a dispute we hear gossip or things said which aren’t always true. Therefore seeking clarity from the person or people involved can help the situation to ensure the right facts are presented before any kind of judgment is made.
If another member of the church sins against you, we are instructed to go and speak to them about it when they are alone. In some versions the phrase ‘against you’ is not present so it’s a general sin rather than a personal matter against you. Either way the recommended course of action is having a quiet word with the person one on one. This is both wise and practical. However, if one feels the other person is not listening it is then and only then that we are advised to get another person, or people if appropriate, involved. This is in order to establish an accurate record and agreement of what has taken place. If this step does not resolve the issue the matter is to be raised with the wider church, however, one would hope the matter which not develop this far. The key element of the passage is that the person would listen to the advice of others in the church and repent of their actions. There is a lesson in here for all of us, we must ensure that we listen and are open to the views of others. Secondly, if there is a dispute and a sin has taken place for the matter to be resolved in a careful and pastoral manner so that the person concerned may realise their mistake, repent of their sin and everyone would be able to move on. We must all recognise we make mistakes and be humble enough to repent to other people and God when necessary. Praise God that He has made a way to be forgiven from sin.
May the Lord Jesus Christ; who died for our sins, bless us now and always,