Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.
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Matthew 18:15-35 Commentary
by Elisabeth Johnson
The first part of this section (Matthew 18:15-20) is commonly referred to as Matthew’s section on “church discipline,” as it discusses how to deal with a member who has sinned against another member of the church.
The fact that this section is preceded by Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:10-14) indicates that the goal of such actions is ultimately to reconcile and restore to the community the one who has gone astray.
Jesus urges his disciples to have honest conversation in private with the offending party. No passive-aggressive behavior, no “triangulation,” just forthright conversation. We know that it is much easier to complain to others about the one who has offended us than to talk to the offending person, but Jesus leaves no room for such self-absorbed grudge-nursing. Restoring a broken relationship must begin with conversation between the parties concerned.
If the offending member refuses to listen, Jesus advises bringing along one or two others as witnesses for further conversation. And if the member still refuses to listen, the matter may be brought before the whole church. It is important to note that this is not a matter reserved only for church leaders, but ...
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2019-20 Worship resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
February 22, 2015
Narrative Lectionary podcast on readings for Feb. 22, 2015: Matthew 18:15-35 (Accompanying text: Psalm 32:1-2).