Year A Proper 18 Matthew 18 2011
When Christians Quarrel: Resolving Conflict in the Church
Matthew 18: 15-20

One of the things I like best about the New Testament is that it is so practical. It must have been the fact that Jesus had human beings called disciples always with him that forced him to speak in such everyday terms about everyday problems. Sometimes Christians disagree in the congregation of believers. Sometimes they quarrel. Sometimes they hold grudges against each other. The Scripture for today says that we must never tolerate any situation in which there is a breach of personal relationship between us and another member of the Christian community.

In this eighteenth chapter of Matthew Jesus admits that disciples are going to have conflicts; but they are to resolve them.

It is very true today that the behavior of us church members on this very issue makes Christianity to the outside world either repulsive or attractive.

It isn't a matter that Christians are perfect and will not have conflicts. There will always be quarrels, differences of opinion on how and who, disappointments with preachers and councils, hurt feelings, bent pride, loss of face, and lots of mistakes. It's the idea that Christians can resolve these conflicts as no other fellowship can, that Jesus puts before us today.

Comus, a Duke of Florence, had a saying that indicated the limitations of his religion: "You shall read that we are commanded to forgive our enemies, but you never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends."

That can happen in the Christian proclamation of the gospel. We spend a lot of time in our pulpits talking about how Christians are admonished by Jesus Christ to love their enemies and to pray for their enemies. When in actuality, right there in the pew side by side are Christians who hold grudges, hang on to petty hurts, refuse to forgive and love each other within the fellowship. And when they do this, church and Christianity and the whole practice of religion for them is not the joyful experience it ought to be. They miss a large dimension of belonging to God's family.

This particular portion of Matthew (18:15-18) gives us a whole scheme of action for the mending of broken relationships within our "family of God" called the Christian fellowship...

  1. Put Your Complaint into Words
  2. Tell the Person about It in Person
  3. Counsel with Other Wise Christians.
  4. Make Use of the Christian Fellowship.
  5. Never Give up Trying.

Can You Carry Your Weight?
Romans 13:8-14

If someone were to stand in front of you and offer you a choice - in one hand "objective" truth, in the other hand "subjective" truth — which would you pick?

Bet you'd go with the "objective."

But anyone here like to be treated like an "object?" Anyone here not want to be treated like a "subject?"

In a "Peanuts" cartoon, Charlie Brown says to little Lucy: "My Dad said that someday I might be able to run for President."

"Really, Charlie Brown?" Lucy answers. "He certainly must think highly of you!"

"I don't know," Charlie replies. "He also said that he didn't think he'd vote for me."

More than an objective assessment of who God is and who we are, more than anything else in life, we need to know that God would vote for us. We need to know that God is subjective, that God is on our side, that God is with us, that God loves us.

The objective truth is that God is love.

The subjective truth is that God loves me, and God loves you.

Modern science is based on what can be observed, weighed, measured, calculated, dissected, and repeated. A scientist must stand apart from that which is being studied, always keeping it in an "objective" relationship. Allowing subjective feeling into the scientific process — emotions, hopes, aspirations, expectations — "taints" the results and the researcher.

We like to pride ourselves on being "objective." The era when the scientific method took root and took off is called "The Enlightenment." Dissecting the world into objective observations and reducing precise measurements was the sign of an "enlightened" mind — full of sight and insight... presents Leonard Sweet