“Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33).
Continued from Jesus Who?—Gethsemane.
The Jesus Who? Series continues!
Jesus gave explicit directions on problem resolution. Christians have a responsibility when wronged by another believer to confront the dispute and seek restoration. Nowhere do I read to skip right over the much needed, yet admittedly uncomfortable, exercise in conflict resolution and accountability, and proceed right to pretending everything’s alright. No wonder so many Christians, instead, talk behind people’s backs and harbor ill-will in their hearts. I don’t know about any of you, but that doesn’t sound like Jesus to me at all.
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17).
By the way, you still love them, no matter the outcome, good or bad. I doubt it was by coincidence that this teaching was recorded between the Parable of the Wandering Sheep and the Parable of the Ungrateful Servant. After all, even if one out of a hundred sheep goes astray, the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and searches for the lost one until it’s found. His sheep are important not only to the angels in heaven and to the Shepherd, but also to God the Father, and it is not the Father’s will that none should perish. Unfortunately, Jesus’ instructions on resolving conflict are commonly misinterpreted, or taken out of context, or disregarded, all together. But I believe the unfailing love expressed in the Parable of the Wandering Sheep and the gracious mercy expressed in the Parable of the Ungrateful Servant should put to rest any contextual arguments regarding Jesus’ intent. “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33).
The failure to obey a few simple rules to resolve conflict has injured the church; however, I recognize that my own failure to obey the very same rules is why I find myself carrying around a lot of unwanted baggage. Whether corporately or individually, failure to heed the Lord’s teaching invites discord to spread like wildfire and strife to multiply. The devil must delight anytime we get it in our heads that we know better than God.
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