Matthew 18:15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
Why is it easier to talk around an issue instead of address it? Why is it easier to talk about someone who has wronged you instead of talking to that person directly? I’ve heard excuses like, “Well we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.” You know what? Spreading gossip is about the most hurtful thing you can do (even if there’s truth to the gossip). It’s destructive. It’s divisive. Its soul-sucking. That’s why Jesus says we need to deal with things head-on instead of allowing them to fester and destroy His community of faith.
I wonder if Jesus meant what everyone thinks he meant when he said to treat them as you would a tax collector. Many people think that means to ostracize them. But…that’s not what Jesus did. He welcomed them and loved them into a changed life.
The story of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35) follows right on the heels of this section where Jesus talks about how we should handle people who sin against us. The Unmerciful Servant puts things in a much larger context: We have been forgiven much. We should forgive much, too.