In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus gives us instructions on what to do “if your brother sins…” If your brother sins. Ugh. Serious? IF my brother sins? IF?! Can we just be honest for half sec here and admit that when it comes to sin ‘if’ is always ‘when?’ True for you. True for me. True for all of us. If your brother sins? Jesus always was polite.
The question isn’t really what to do if someone around you sins, but what to do when it happens. And Jesus gives us a blueprint.
“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 loosed[a] 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.”Matthew 18:15-20 ESV
The first thing you need to understand about confrontation is that the goal is restoration (Galatians 6:1). Best keep that in mind before you go off running your mouth. Just saying…
The second thing you need to do is consider your actions.
- Know what you’re about to confront. What really happened? (Proverbs 18:15, John 7:24)
- Know where the boundaries are. Is this really something you should be dealing with? Proverbs 26:17, Ecclesiastes 3:1,8)
- Know your real motivation. Why are you doing this? (Proverbs 16:18, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:21-23)
Finally, follow a clear course of action.
- Avoid confrontation altogether. Let’s face it, sometimes the answer really is to just it go. (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15)
- Settle up individually and privately. If you can avoid bringing others into it, that’s always a better choice. (Matthew 18:15)
- Group and semi-private. Okay, we’re talking about sin, and sometimes people need escalated accountability, so bring a couple of friends. (Matthew 18:16)
- Church and still semi-private. Alright, so, yeah, bringing something before a church is not exactly private. But in the modern age we have ways of making things even more widely known. That doesn’t mean we should though. (Matthew 18:17)
- Excommunication. Yup. It’s legit. Someone wants to hang on to sin in their life so hard they just won’t give it up for anything, kick them out of the church! Yeah, yeah, it sounds heartless, but sin is a sign of a broken relationship and the process of dealing with it even at this late stage is still restoration. For an example of this, check out 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.
And a couple of final notes… although these instructions were given to deal with sin in someone’s life, it should be recognized that they’re pretty adaptable to everyday conflict with friends and family. And lastly, for the love of all that’s holy, keep it off the internet. Social media is a valuable tool capable of many things, resolving conflict is not among those things.