Tuesday, September 09, 2008

If your brother sins against you.

Matthew 18: 15 – 17 (Sermon reflections.)

This passage as traditionally been used as a basis for cutting off contact with people who have broken the rules of a group or who have done something that offends a person or group. Within the Christian tradition, it has been used as the basis for excommunication or shunning.

The passage assumes that the other party has indeed done something wrong as it says, “If your brother sins against you…” This also assumes that there originally was a closeness between the two parties. But it does not say that the other party has to change or repent, only “listen to you.” If he doesn’t listen, then take along witnesses so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Obviously the issue must be something that happened before the witnesses or they could not testify to anything. However, witnesses could observe the discourse between the parties.

Then if the person still doesn’t listen, then go before the church. If he still doesn’t listen, “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

So how do we treat pagans or tax collectors? This is where the shunning comes in. The Chosen People weren’t supposed to mix with the pagans or Gentiles. Tax collectors represented Rome, so even if they were Jews, they became societal outcasts. Shunning doesn’t mean overt action against people, but rather implies cutting off contact or considering them to be a Non-Person, so to speak.

But we could also rightly ask, how did Jesus treat the pagans and the tax collectors? Jesus always seems to disregard those boundaries. He actually invited Matthew, the tax collector to be one of his disciples. Jesus talked to women and Gentiles, who then helped spread the Gospel of his love. Jesus forgave people even if they were on the other side of these lines.

How on earth can one carry out the Great Commission if we keep within our boundaries?

[During the present season of Political Rhetoric, I can’t help but think that more would be accomplished if there were fewer accusations thrown out into the airwaves and more spirit of coming together and “witnessing” to each other with our various viewpoints. Obviously, the political posturing isn’t meant to bring people together, but rather to divide. Then we will all have to live with the consequences, regardless of who wins.]


  1. absolutely!!! to everything you said! there are powerful interests I think, that want to keep us divided, and keep us from actually solving things.

    I was kind of hoping that this election cycle would be focussed on real issues, and not on "wedges," so that, after all is said and done, we can sit down and work together without all this partisan anger and hatred.

    But people who have been vilified and lied about (and this happens on all sides) have a hard time "getting over it"....

  2. Amen!
    Way back when I had hope that we could discuss the serious issues facing the USA.
    Seems like Comic Book Good Guy Bad Guy Biff Bam Biff gets better ratings.
    Sad! Real sad and scary!


And what do you think?