“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.”
There are a lot of bad things happening in the world today, but you don’t need me to tell you that. It’s in the news everyday. And, as much as we may wish there wasn’t, there are also a lot of bad things happening in the church, but you don’t need me to tell you that either. The question is: what do we do? What do we do, for instance, when a person in a position of leadership and authority says or does something that is inappropriate? Or another member of the congregation?
A specific example might make this easier to understand. You are a woman who is helping out in a parish, and a man who is serving in the church—it could be in any capacity—makes an inappropriate advance towards you. What do you do, keeping in mind that as followers of Jesus our reactions have to be loving?
Jesus offers some really sensible advice in the passage we are reflecting upon today. The first thing he says we need to do is to talk to the person! Talk TO the person, not ABOUT the person. What we usually do is talk to others about what the person has done, and now with social media, we have a wonderful platform to air our grievances. And I see people airing them all the time. It saddens me because this is not what the Christian does. And what does it solve?
The Christian talks to the person. He might simply be a man (or woman) who is lonely and in need of some companionship, but is going about it the wrong way. Help him understand this, and if you are loving, but firm, there is a very good chance he will stop. And what if he doesn’t listen? Jesus tells us the next step too. Take a couple of friends with you, preferably mutual friends, and again try to make the person see sense.
And what if he still doesn’t listen? Well, then you have no choice but to take it to the church authorities and ask for their intervention. If the offender still doesn’t listen to reason (or if the church authorities don’t want to reason with the man), then Jesus says to treat the person as you would a person of the world: let the world take him to task. But remember, for the Christian this should be the very last resort.
And remember, talk TO the person, not ABOUT the person.