Matthew 18.15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.(King James Version)
A brother or a sister has committed some offense against you personally. You would like to get the matter resolved. You need help to get justice. Since it is a fellow believer you should bring the matter up before the church in the required format, an escalation of involvement with other members. Just be sure that it is important enough to begin down this path. Sometimes it is better to allow yourself to be defrauded. To swallow the loss and move on. Better to extend mercy than to receive: payment, compensation, apology, et al. But if you must confront the issue, here are the steps.
18.15 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.
You should choose your time to approach your brother/sister when you think they would be open to a discussion. It should be at a time that is convenient to both of you. You should discuss your loss or injury so that the other person can understand what has happened to you. You should hear their side of the story. You should both seek the best solution to the problem. Then instead of an enemy, you will have repaired the breach between you and have gained a brother/sister in the Lord.
That is what you should do. Of course if your timing to approach the person is wrong, or you are combative or they are ignoring you, then you have a problem before you even begin. It may be that even with your best intention the problem doesn't get resolved to your satisfaction. You should ask yourself, "Is it really necessary for me to continue?" If the answer is yes, then...
In Deuteronomy 19.15 It says that one witness is not enough to bring a charge against another person. Before you proceed to the elders and the church you need to take this interem step. Matthew 18.16 Says that you need to take two or three witnesses to the next meeting with your opponent. Think of this next step as mediation. You need to find two or three others that will help you repair the breach between you and your adversary. Adversary? Yes, if you are going to continue, then the person is now an adversary. It is important to find two or three people that both you and your opponent respect. Finding two or three people who want to be on your side will not help. Your opponent needs to know that they will get a fair hearing. No rush to judgement but an establishing of testimony between the two of you. God requires that the witnesses, of this meeting, be impartial. You are seeking justice. You never know, the counsel you receive may be that you are both wrong or perhaps just you.
So your witnesses/counselors tell you how they see the problem. They may make some recommendations for compensation/correction. Will you listen to them? Will your opponent agree with their assessment? Hopefully at this time both you and your adversary can come to an agreement. If not, you need to ask yourself once again, "Do I really want to carry this forward to the next level?"
Matthew 18.17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church:
Here is what it says in the Old Testament: Deut19.17 "Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; 18 And the judges shall make diligent inquisition:"
In this regard they are seeking where the false testimony between two people lays. In our scenario the elders of the church are looking for the truth. This is where it is important for the two or three witnesses that were at the previous meeting to be present. They are to give an account of all that was said. What were their recommendations. The elders are to look into the matter further to see if there are any witnesses to the original act. To judge if you or your opponent are lying and to what extent. To value the extent of harm. To take corrective actions to resolve the situation. At this level it is possible that the judgement may fall on you. This is an extreme escalation.
Do You Understand?
Not just the elders but Jesus is a judge as well:
This is what God says about the authority to judge:
This is what God says about the power to judge:
At the end of the investigation, when all the facts that can be known are known, then the elders need to get together and pray for knowledge and the wisdom to judge the outcome. You have reached the final arbitration. (Of course in some denominations you have even higher levels of authority to make an appeal)
At this point the judgement has been made. Will both of you live according to the judgement of the elders? In the gospel of Matthew it talks about your opponent having to accept the judgement of the elders. You also have to accept the judgement and agree to move on with your life. In Deut 19 a false witness would be punished with the same judgement they sought to inflict on the other. What if the elders find you are at fault to some degree?
If your adversary will neglect the judgement of the church, then the church is to be told the truth, and your adversary is to be thrown out and considered a non-believer. Why expulsion? Deuteronomy gives you that answer: 19.20 "And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you."
The question I would ask you then would be, "Did you really want it to go this far. To escalate the matter until someone is thrown out?" I wrote earlier that it may be better to swallow the loss. Jesus suggests that very thing. Don't resist, do good to your adversary. Sometimes correction is a good thing, both for you and your opponent. Other times it is a path that may lead to separation and loss.
May God give you the wisdom to know what the best course of action is to take.
Website administrator: Joseph A Raymond
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada