“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.” (Matthew 18:15)
I was thinking and pondering over what to say about this verse and the larger passage – nothing was coming to mind. And then I thought, “How different is this from when the called and chosen people thought they were being ‘disciplined’ by the Lord God.” And that is when it hit me – how different the path to the Lord God in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
In the passage before this section, Jesus is telling the story of the lost sheep and how the shepherd left the ninety-nine who were safely penned up to go seek the lost sheep. Do you suppose, even in the Old Testament the Lord God tried to reach the Hebrews/Israelites individually? Abraham and his sons & grandsons knew the Divine on a one to one personal level. But coming out of Egypt there were a mass of people who knew who their ancestors were but did not know who they should in relationship to the Lord God who had been their ancestors’ God. But . . . I digress and there is more scripture to consider.
“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.” (Verse 16)
What about the prophets, both major and minor. Could be the “one or two” brought in to the conversation between the Divine and the descendants of the tribes of Jacob? This is really lighting a fire under my thinking about the Lord God from the Old and New Testaments. A way of seeing some continuity between the two.
“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.” (Verse 17)
Many of the stories from the Old Testament are ones of the Divine reaching out and attempting making connections to individuals, and on some occasions groups. What if the Lord God tried reaching out individually to members of the Israelite/Judahite nations but did not connect? What if those stories of the individual attempts were never told or never came to light? Is it possible that the supposed captivities of the Israelites and Judahites were the Divine regarding them as “Gentiles” and “tax collectors”? Trying to win the people back but having to hold them as a distance until the conversion was complete? What if Jesus was sent to the Jewish nation at the apex of their foreignness and disconnection to the Divine? This for me, beloved reader, opens up new considerations. Let me for now consider this more within my own thinking, and move on to the rest of the passage.
“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.” (Verses 18 – 20)
“Where two or three are gathered” the Lord God is there. The Old Testament talks about the faithful remnant; upon such as these the Jewish faith lived on. In the line of King David, it came down to Joseph, earthly father of Jesus. And it came down in equally faithful lines to Mary, mother of Jesus. Maybe faith comes best in relatively small groups. The early Christian church thrived when it was composed of many small faith circles. Even now small faith circles keep many large churches alive and vital. As Jesus said, talking to one another and lines of communication open. Dealing with small problems before they become large ones. And encouraging one to one relationships with the Divine.
May you, beloved reader, use the lessons that Jesus taught to ensure harmony in your faith circles. And may you to consider new ways of understanding the ongoing story of the Divine and humanity. Shalom & Selah!