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Sunday, September 10, 2017
Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 18:15–20
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (NRSV)
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” This is the NIV translation of the first scripture, and I find its contrast to the NRSV fascinating. While some translations say only to confront if you have been sinned against, the NIV interpretation is much more open-ended, providing a greater challenge for us.
This is incredibly awkward for me. I tend to normally remember the scriptures, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” or “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” It just feels so arrogant to point out others’ sins. Squaring that message with today’s passage is difficult and confusing.
But I also think that in today’s climate, the message is so important. In recent months, we’ve seen hatred, racism, and bigotry expressed openly and publicly across the country. And unfortunately we’ve even seen some Christians—including, for many of us, our own friends and family—defending these evil actions.
Our response, according to scripture, is not public condemnation. It’s coming to our brothers and sisters privately, armed with grace and love, and even if these attempts are fruitless and our brothers and sisters do not listen, we don’t shun or shame but treat them as Jesus treated the tax collectors and pagans: with love.
Countering sin with grace and hatred with love is no easy task. But it’s what we must strive to do.
Lord, give me the strength to stand up for your kingdom in this world. Bless me with your wisdom so that I would have the right words to say. Give me your grace that I may do all of this in the spirit of your love. Amen.
Written by Jared Light, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
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