Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wayward Sheep

People tend to judge and put down others in an effort to make themselves look better and support their pride.  Jesus had just warned about the consequences of judging and turning others away.  In Matthew 18:11 he reminded them, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”  It was the same thing he had told them in Matthew 9:11-13.  “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. Mt 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Jesus did come to help those who were without fault.  He came to help those who were messed up and unable to help themselves.  These are the ones who realize their need and want his help.  He used another parable to help them understand what he meant, in Matthew 18:12-14. 

“How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?  And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” 

To a good shepherd, every sheep matters, and a lost one is a serious matter.  If he realizes one is missing, he will make sure the others are safe, then go out and search for the lost one.  If he finds it safe, he will be more excited about having recovered it than he is about the ninety nine who were safe, because he cares just as much for its safety as for any of the others.  In the same way, Christ cares about that one who isn’t doing as well just as much as for those who are.  When we drive them away, we grieve him.  As he described in the parable of the tares and the wheat, sometimes it is better to just let them stay in the church until it is clear whether they are of God or of Satan. 

With this in mind, Jesus gave specific instructions as to how we should deal with people who are not doing w3hat is right, in Matthew 18:15-18.  “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.  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 a heathen man and a publican.  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.”

If someone is doing something that is not right and brings a reproach on the church, we should go to them privately first, because it is entirely possible they do not realize they are doing anything wrong, or that they need some help stopping.  If that resolves the problem it should not go any further.  He is trying to do what is right.  If the person doesn’t make any effort to change, then we should take two or three others with us to make it clear it not just our opinion but is in fact something that is truly wrong.  If he still makes no effort to change, then we are to bring him before the church as a whole to see if peer pressure will make him reconsider what he is doing.  If he doesn’t care what the church or God says about his actions we are to treat him like any unsaved person with no interest in God, because they may not be saved.  We are not to shun them. 

This does not contradict Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 5.  The man described thare was doing something that even the unbelievers in Corinth considered unacceptable.  The man clearly knew what he was doing was unacceptable, and refused to stop.  At that point, they had no choice but to exclude him from the church if he refused to listen, in hopes it would get his attention.   Even the goal is to get him to acknowledge his sin and make changes, not just to get him out of the church.  Failure to follow the steps usually defeats the purpose of church discipline.  We need to do it the way Christ commanded so that we don’t lose any of God’s sheep. 

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