Have You Been “Matthew Eighteened”? Study No. 244
Have you ever been “Matthew 18’d”? Have you “Matthew 18’d” anyone else? You don’t know what I mean? Well, then, that is the purpose of this short study!
When a noun is made into a verb, it is usually because it has become a proverb. In politics, we have a great example of this. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork for the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Bork was eminently qualified to sit on the nation’s highest court. He was a judge of judges. Yet, because of partisan political wrangling, the liberals succeeded in blocking Bork’s nomination. Thus, “Bork” has become a verb. When someone says, “I’ve been borked!” they mean they have been torpedoed, blocked for no good reason.
Likewise, Matthew 18:15-20 has become a verb. This is one of the most difficult scriptures in the Bible to follow. Odds are that everyone of us has been “Matthew 18’d,” at one time or another, and we have almost certainly “Matthew 18’d” someone else.
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother,” Matthew 18:15. So, it says here that if we have a problem with another brother in the faith, we are supposed to go immediately to the minister, and blab it to the entire congregation. Wrong! Do you know why I don’t always first go to my brother? Because I am yellow. It takes courage to (gulp!) go to your brother when you feel he has wronged you. It is far easier to be a talebearer, and go to the minister or someone else. We would prevent needless grief and heartache in the Church if only we would follow this command of our Savior.
“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people,” Leviticus 19:16. The rest of the verse is a little hard to understand in the KJV. The NIV translates it “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life.” When you get right down to it, tale bearing could endanger your neighbor’s spiritual life. It is a deadly poison.
“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter,” Proverbs 11:13.
When a Christian brother violates Matthew 18:15, and goes to the minister, two sins are generally committed. The first one is the wronged brother not going to his brother first. The second sin is the minister receiving the accusation, for he should not receive it unless the proper procedure is followed.
There should be a three-step problem resolution process. Hopefully, the problem will be resolved in Step 1 or Step 2, and not have to go to Step 3. Step 1, go to your brother. If the problem is not resolved, Step 2 is: “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established,” Matthew 18:16. Perhaps the problem can be resolved with more than one person admonishing the sinning brother. Obviously, this must be a serious sin if it goes to Step 2.
Step 3 is the last resort (not the first option as all too many of us take, due to cowardice), “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican,” verse 17. Here, “the Church” is not the minister, but the whole congregation.
How do I know this? Because of verses 18-20. The Church has the authority to make binding decisions on disputes between brethren, as long as they are gathered together in His name, and make godly decisions.
So in reality, there is no valid choice to “take it to the minister,” singular.
Not only is Matthew 18 one of the most difficult scriptures in the Bible to actually follow, it seems to be the command of Christ that is the rarest ever obeyed. Only a mature congregation of serious dedicated believers would actually put this into practice. We are called to grow in grace and knowledge, to become perfect, Matthew 5:48; II Peter 3:18. One of the most vital areas in which we need to grow is interpersonal relationships among the brethren. The next time you feel wronged by a Christian brother, DO NOT go to the minister or elder. GO TO YOUR BROTHER. Let us not “Matthew 18” our brother! — by Richard C. Nickels Ω