Be Still Know
Matthew 18.17 NLT
Jesus said, “If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
On the face of it this might sound rather harsh, but Jesus has just given the best possible advice for how to handle the situation where someone has done you wrong. First, speak to them one to one and, if that fails, take one or two people with you. The aim is to achieve restoration as quickly as possible. But if that doesn’t work then the matter needs to go to the church. If the person still refuses to listen then Jesus says that they should be treated like a complete outsider. As we hear these strong words, we need to remember that Jesus, of all people, was always reaching out in love to pagans and corrupt tax collectors, so he wasn’t saying that they were beyond hope. However, there may sadly come a time when a dispute cannot be resolved and you need to move on.
What I love about this teaching is that it shows that Jesus deeply understood normal human life. He understood that things can sometimes go wrong even amongst his followers. Because he was the perfect son of God, you may think that he wouldn’t have understood the rough and tumble of normal life. But he did! We should always give the best of our energies to living at peace with people and seeking to bring restoration wherever possible but, sadly, there are some occasions – and in my experience they are very rare – when we can do no more to bring things together and we need to move on. This was clearly the case with Paul and Barnabas. They had a deep disagreement over whether to take John Mark with them on their missionary journey and they resolved the matter by parting company. I always read that passage with sadness but, in the event, it seems to have been the right decision for everyone concerned.
Question: Have you ever had to move on from a situation that couldn’t be resolved? What did you learn from the experience?
Prayer: Loving God, thank you that you are with us as we face up to difficult situations and that your Spirit gives us the strength and wisdom that we need. Amen
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