by Neal Pollard
The Son of God gives specific instructions for what to do when a spiritual family member sins. Jesus clearly says, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Notice the Divine pattern.
Perpetration (15a)–“If you brother sins.” This is what initiates the situation.
Presentation (15b)–“Go and show him his fault in private.” Paul would teach this later (Gal. 6:1). Notice that this is to be done privately.
Aspiration (15c)–“If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Ideally, this is where the matter should end.
Escalation (16-17)–Jesus tells one what to do if a sinner refuses to listen. Start by taking one or two. If that does not work, then tell it to the church.
Repudiation (18)–If all three of these approaches fail to win the sinner, then you reject them.
Tragically, we very often disobey Jesus’ instructions about this and fail to understand that rebelling against His commandment then makes us a sinner, too. How often does it happen that a person, rather than dealing directly with the sinning brother, tells someone else? Then, that someone tells another. Soon, a whole group or even the whole church knows about the sin.
Often, something that was private and even between just two people is made public by gossipers who continue to spread the matter. In some cases, those who hear and spread the matter never even speak to the offender. This prevents the sinner from being aware of who knows about it or being able to reconcile. It can even be the case that the sinner has repented and handled the matter with the original offender, but now others are brought into the matter after the fact. Those who have come to hear about the situation treat the sinner “as a Gentile and a tax collector,” without ever once speaking to them about it. Rifts form and relationships are affected.
When we fail to do things God’s way, we will make matters worse.
May we consider passages like Mark 7:21-23, where Jesus places “big” sins like “fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness” alongside “little” sins like “deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.” Jesus’ analysis is that “all” these things are “evil” and “defile the man.”