Matthew 18:15-16 “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. 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.”
Each of us as a child to their parents knows that when there was peace in the home, all was well.
Every parent can agree that to have unity among the family is a wonderful thing.
Unity among those in our own home, in our neighborhood, with those whom we work and especially in the house of God, is sometimes a delicate balance. Reading this whole chapter in that light, adds some dimension to that thought.
First, Jesus answers a question put to Him by His disciples:
Matthew 18:1 “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Whether it was by pride, or a jockeying for position or simply specifying a goal for which they could attain; Jesus addressed the spirit of their question.
Matthew 18:3 “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
A child explicitly trusts their parents until given reason to place their trust elsewhere. Jesus was saying, ‘Once you are saved, you must approach this with the simplistic trust as a child.’ Our Heavenly Father does all things well – so there is no reason for us to remove or dimish our childlike trust of Him.
Children at play will be the best of friends until the selfishness of one arises.
Jesus then gives the core statement of the chapter and the answer as to whom was the greatest in the kingdom:
Matthew 18:4 “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
As long as there is sin in the world, there will be those who will seek to take advantage. They view others as obstacles in their path to getting what it is they want. The are unwilling to yield to anyone but their vision of who and what they seek to be – which is why Jesus addresses the punishment for those who would do such a thing.
Jesus then goes on to reveal to us how we should take care of that part of us that would rise up in rebellion. He refers to our eyes, our hands and our feet becoming offensive and cutting them off to remove the opportunity to sin. This is not literal but significant in that we should want to utterly remove that which causes us to stray from His will and the performing of it.
The condition of our heart is revealed in what we view, what we hear, what we touch and where we go. To return to that childlike trust, we should want to remove any and every obstacle that would stand in our way.
Unity cannot be achieved by forcing others to get along with us. But, rather setting our hearts to agree in belief and principle that which God desires for us to stay in unity with each other.
Jesus goes on to explain restoration in a couple of examples.
First, the imagery of a single sheep that has straying from the fold. We would find it easy to just disregard that one who is offended or with whom we take offense. But God tells us that ‘All Lives Matter’.
I think of it this way: What if that one were my child? Would I go after them?
Secondly, He speaks as that one who wants revenge or justice rather than mercy, grace and forgiveness. He sets forth a step-by-step plan for correction in the church. God tells us how ot deal with those who need to be restored. Offering opportunities for them to humble themselves as that little child and come to agreement with all involved is a noble goal.
But it cannot always be reached.
There are some with which we must treat as a cancer until such time they are ready to be cured and restored – these are those whom the Bible refers to as scorners, mockers and gossips. A scorner, mocker or gossip will infect others with their poison and take simple ones with them and hurt the church.
The repetitiveness of someone’s sinning can be wearisome when they seem to be that dog returning to its vomit. The Bible tells us that we all have a besetting sin.
Hebrews 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,”
Often, we can see the path for others to get right more easily than our own. A spirit and desire for unity would be to apply an old adage:
“There but by the grace of God go I”
Jesus goes on at length to explain forgiveness to end the chapter. The illustration can be summed up in Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
When the church of the Living God is in unity and harmony with one another, there is no telling what it can do. But, our enemy has made such inroads to sow discord, division, disagreement and disunity and utterly destroy the power of what a church with one heart, operating in one accord. We see it in the Book of Acts.
Acts 2:1 “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”
True unity can only happen to those who are spiritual. Restoration must be initiated by thse who are spiritual.
Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
Ask God what it is today that stands in the way of us having unity in our relationships. Pause to listen as He speaks. Then, act on what it is He brings to our attention. Once we are able to achieve unity, covet it; defend it and promote it.
Keep short accounts with those with whom we disagree. Don’t hold grudges. Unforgiveness will breed a bitterness in your soul that will defile not only yourself, but those around you.
Love unity – seek peace.
Psalms 34:14 “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”