This passage provides a framework for dealing with conflict in a way that seeks to restore relationships and maintain the unity of the church. The first step in this process is to approach the person who has sinned and address the issue directly. This should be done in a private setting, just between the two individuals involved. The goal is not to shame or condemn the person, but to help them recognize their wrongdoing and seek repentance.
If the person is willing to listen and acknowledge their fault, then the matter is resolved and there is no need to take further action. However, if the person refuses to listen or denies any wrongdoing, the next step is to involve one or two other people as witnesses. This is done not to gang up on the person or to pressure them into admitting fault, but rather to provide additional perspective and support for the person who has been wronged.
If the person still refuses to listen and acknowledge their wrongdoing, then the matter should be brought before the church community. This is a serious step and should not be taken lightly. It involves making the issue public and seeking the involvement of the entire church community in resolving the conflict. The goal is still to seek reconciliation and restoration, but now with the added support and accountability of the larger church community.
If, even after involving the church, the person continues to refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoing, then the final step is to treat them as an outsider. This does not mean shunning or ostracizing the person, but rather recognizing that they have chosen to separate themselves from the community through their actions. The hope is still for repentance and restoration, but now from a position of separation.
This passage is not just a practical guide for dealing with conflict within the church community, but also a reflection of the importance of relationships and unity within the church. The church is meant to be a place where people can find love, support, and accountability as they seek to follow Jesus. When conflict arises, it can threaten to undermine these relationships and disrupt the unity of the church. But if handled properly, conflict can also be an opportunity for growth, repentance, and deeper relationships.
In conclusion, Matthew 18:15-17 provides a framework for dealing with conflict within the church community in a way that seeks to restore relationships and maintain the unity of the church. It emphasizes the importance of addressing issues directly, seeking additional perspective and support when necessary, and involving the entire church community as a last resort. Ultimately, the goal is not to condemn or shame the person who has sinned, but to seek repentance and restoration through the love and accountability of the church community.
Matthew 18:15-17. If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.