Matthew 18:15-20 "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. . . . For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
I’d like to begin with an old story, it goes something like this –
Keep Thou my all, O Lord, Hide my life in Thine;
O let Thy sacred light, O'er my pathway shine;
Kept by Thy tender care, Gladly the cross I'll bear,
Hear Thou and grant my prayer, Hide my life in Thine.
That’s how gossip starts. And it also leads to one of the top excuses why people don’t go to church – It is filled with hypocrites! But that is not our topic this morning – the people who need to hear that, are not hear – but our text does have some guidance as to how we might be a better and more effective church, more the body of Christ. The reason why this is important is, because where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, Christ is present.
We know that the church is not to be divided, but to be one, in Christ – and for this reason Paul writes to the Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. We have used this text with regard to fellowship with other churches, but the real point is the breaking of the fellowship in the local congregation.
The real point is how do we handle conflict – in the rest of the world, if someone does something to us, we go to our circle of friends and call for them to choose sides. Often we don’t even deal with the real problem, for the choice is put in such a way that – you really couldn’t be friends with both of us! – or - come on, say that I’m right, and he’s wrong! But that is not how it is supposed to be in the church – not only does it break the body of Christ – but it is a bad witness to those on the outside. And to use those words, so often spoken at a wedding – What God has joined together, let not man break asunder.
So how does God call upon us to handle conflict (or any disagreement) – simple - go and speak to the person you are in conflict with. And the biggest reason why we don’t do this – something we all know we are supposed to do – is that often we don’t know how – what do we say? The answer is to say what you feel = for example, it hurt me that you didn’t call me and ask me to help in the church repairs.
It might be hard to put our feelings into words, which is always a good time to turn to God in prayer, and to ask him – Why do I feel this way? What do I say?
But as hard as it might be – the reason why we do this, is because God has called us to work with him to build the church, and the easiest way to begin is to settle differences before they become divisions – after all, Jesus prayer on the night before he died, was not that I might win every argument – but – it was: that they might be one.
So the reason why we go and talk to our brother or sister in Christ, is because Jesus died that our sins might be forgiven – and that we might be one. And when we go, we have the promise that God will be with us – and God will help us, that we truly might be one. This would be a powerful witness to the world who thinks that the church is filled with hypocrites.