“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times'” (Matthew 18:21-22).

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I was studying Matthew 18 this evening and ran across something in my concordance, which I would like to share, so tonight let’s revisit Jesus Who?—Problem Solver.

The following excerpt comes from my concordance about Matthew 18:21-22:

Someone might then ask, “Why bother to go through the steps outlined above? Why go to an offender alone, then with one or two others, then take him to church? Why not just forgive, and let that be the end of it?”

The answer is that there are stages in the administration of forgiveness, as follows:

When a brother wrongs me or sins against me, I should forgive him immediately in my heart (Eph. 4:32). That frees me from a bitter, unforgiving spirit, and leaves the matter on his shoulders.

While I have forgiven him in my heart, I do not yet tell him that he is forgiven. It would not be righteous to administer forgiveness publicly until he has repented. So I am obligated to go to him and rebuke him in love, hoping to lead him to confession (Luke 17:3).

As soon as he apologizes and confesses his sin, I tell him that he is forgiven (Luke 17:4).

From Jesus Who?—Problem Solver:

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 scripture considered in this post is full of any number of other revelations and wonderful truths worth exploring, but I have written what I believe the Holy Spirit has guided me to write.

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.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times'” (Matthew 18:21-22). As Jesus was speaking these words, and then went on to share the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, I can’t help wondering whether one day hanging on a cross was in the back of His mind.

True, the church is a hospital for the broken, but hospitals are places of healing, and Jesus Christ is the great physician. How long will we remain so comfortable in our brokenness? Is our ignorance, not willful, and isn’t that willfulness none other than rebellion? How long will we entertain those voices who cause us to stumble? (1 Corinthians 15:33; Romans 16:17). How long will we throw our pearls to pigs and wonder why we can’t escape turmoil’s grasp? (Matthew 7:6). Perhaps the great need for spiritual discernment is why Jesus goes right into the subject of prayer in Matthew 7. Read the whole chapter; read chapter 18; it’s not like Jesus rambled on aimlessly.

We say we love, but Jesus was love, yet we don’t act much like Jesus. Maybe we think we can improve upon Jesus’ work. Go no further than Matthew 7; let’s taste our fruit and see for ourselves (Matthew 7:16).

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