Matthew 18:15-20 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Matthew 18 contains much about forgiveness. The subtitle in my Bible for the first section, verses 1-9, is "The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." It requires us to "become like little children." It calls us to humility. In thinking about little children when it comes to forgiveness, we note that little children are quick to forgive. Little children may have rifts with one another one moment but the next moment they are best friends once again. And then Jesus warns all of us not to cause any who are "little ones" to sin. Here again, I'm reminded of the quote I've heard through the years that children "learn what they live." We are examples to them and are called upon to live our lives in such a way that we model the Christ-life before them. The Second subtitle is for verses 10-14, "The Parable of the Lost Sheep." In this section, Jesus tells the story of a lost sheep whose shepherd will leave the flock to search for the one that is lost. He says, "In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost."
The next subtitle for verses 15-20 is "A Brother Who Sins Against You." A key word in this passage is in verse 15, which says, "If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." And from that we get the detailed instructions on how to pursue the restoration. First, we are told to confront the brother, remembering the humility to which we are called. We are warned in the Sermon on the Mount not to "judge" others but encouraged to examine our own selves first and then, "You, hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (Matthew 5:5)." [Note: 5 is a number referring to grace.] We are then told to take one or two others along. And finally, if the brother still refuses to listen, we are to tell the church to then implore the brother. And even then, Jesus told them to treat him who does not listen as a pagan or a tax collector. What I perceive here and what I believe is further reinforced by the following three verses, is how important it is to continue to pray for the brother or sister. Personally, I believe that "the church" has in many respects shirked their responsibility to enter into this restoration process. I was blessed to see our youngest son's church participate in his restoration following an indiscretion in his life some years ago. It was handled with much humility, grace, and love. And healing has been sweet and utterly victorious! Praise the Lord!!!
The most important thing I'd like us to get from today's scripture is the importance to handle the transgression with humility and grace and love with a goal of restoration. This is God's heart!