In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus established a procedure to
be followed in the event that a brother would commit a sin or offense
against another Christian. Many Christian scholars believe that this is one
of the most neglected teachings of the entire Bible. It's been said that if
all believers would simply obey scripture, to go and confront their
offenders in the manner Jesus gave, it would solve over half of all problems
which exist in the church.
It is important to confront those brethren who have
trespassed against us for the following five reasons:
(1) To resolve misunderstandings.
Most offenses in the church result from misunderstandings and many could be
quickly resolved if offended parties would just go to the source and find
out the facts. Unfortunately, some offended people will just absorb the
offense silently, while growing bitter and resentful. It is important to
God, and a matter of obedience to His Word, that such issues are confronted.
(2) To maintain peace in the body of Christ
(Eph. 4:1-3). Whenever there is friction and turmoil between believers it
affects the whole body. It hinders people from entering into worship and
receiving from God's Word. It creates an uninviting atmosphere for visitors
in the church, it may hinder people from coming to Christ, and can even
grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30-32).
(3) So Satan cannot gain advantage over us
(2 Cor. 2:10-11). For our own spiritual well-being, we must be quick to
resolve our differences with brethren and forgive. Satan can hinder our
spiritual life, and even deceive us into apostasy, through harbored
bitterness or unforgiveness (Matt. 18:35).
(4) So that the offender is held accountable
— to not repeat his actions to harm the faith of others (Matt. 18:6).
Persons who bring offense against you are likely to repeat similar acts
against others. Confronting their offensive behavior may cause them to
restrain their actions from causing further offenses.
(5) To restore a fallen brother (Gal.
6:1). Christians must make every attempt to restore brethren who fall into
sin. Especially when the transgression has been committed against us, our
love for our brother's spiritual well-being demands that we confront the
brother so that he might be reconciled to God.
Matthew 18:15 "Moreover if your brother sins
against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he
hears you, you have gained your brother.
First, Go to your brother privately (Matt.
If a fellow Christian has sinned or brought an offense against you, Jesus
said for you to first go to the offending party, confront him with the
offense, and keep the matter private between yourselves. Remember, the
objective is to not merely to seek justice for a violation against us, but
to seek "reconciliation" with our brother, and his restoration to a right
relationship with God.
Why is the matter to be first kept private between you
two? Because our love for our brother requires it. If we are sincerely
committed to love for our brethren as Jesus commands (John 13:34), then even
if a brother has sinned against us or has done us wrong, we will not want to
maliciously injure that brother's credibility within the body — that might
hinder his restoration. If this person's transgression against you is
circulated within the body, but later he repents, many in the body will have
already judged this brother and the accusations will have damaged their
opinion of him. By spreading our accusation against an offending party, it
builds a consensus against them and makes it difficult, if not nearly
impossible, to restore that person to the body should they repent and desire
to make things right.
Also, many alleged trespasses between brethren are a
result of "misunderstandings." We need to first investigate the facts and
find out for sure whether a trespass has really occurred. This is another
reason why you are to first go privately to the brother or sister in
question — to confront them with the alleged offense and hear their side of
the story. If we disclose the offense to friends in the body, we may later
discover that the matter was only a misunderstanding. But by then, their
reputation will have been damaged by our allegations.
Many people foolishly allow themselves to become
offended by misinterpreting other's intentions, or listening to rumors and
secondhand information which always contain distortions or exaggerations.
Many offenses could be immediately resolved by confronting the offending
party and hearing their explanation. You'd be surprised how many people are
so immature that they don't even bother to investigate the facts or hear the
other side of the story. Don't ever forget, "There are always two sides to a
story," and never assume you know the truth of a matter until you've heard
I can guarantee that there would be far fewer
misunderstandings in the body of Christ if people would be firmly devoted to
love for their brethren. Love for the brethren gives us a desire to believe
the best in our brother, giving him the "benefit of the doubt," instead of
jumping to conclusions and always expecting the worst. The Bible says "If
you love someone... you will always believe in him, always expect the best
of him" (1 Cor. 13:7 TLB).
If the trespass is proven valid, and he or she
repent's for their misdeed, you are to express your forgiveness (Luke
17:3-4). Let the matter be forever ended, and carry no resentment toward
them. Remember, if they repent, but you continue to harbor bitterness, you
too become a perpetrator of sin (Matt. 6:14-15, Acts 8:23, Eph. 4:31-32).
Second, take another brother (Matt. 18:16).
If your private attempt fails to resolve the issue, you are then to take one
other Christian and again confront the offending party. The presence of
another Christian is as a witness to strengthen the serious effect of
confrontation, to collaborate the exhortation of scripture, to amplify the
Lord's presence in the meeting, and to verify the exchange of testimony.
Third, tell Church leadership (Matt. 18:17).
If the first and second attempts fail, Jesus said then to "tell it to the
church." This doesn't mean the "entire" church body, as this could cause
unrest or damage the faith of young believers. The meaning is that the
church pastors or elders are then to bear responsibility in dealing with the
Finally, if these three prescribed attempts fail, we
are no longer required to entreat them with the courtesies shown to
brethren. They may be dealt with in the same fashion as we would a heathen
or publican (Matt. 18:17).
What to do if you trespass: If you
are aware of any trespass you have committed against your brother, you have
a responsibility to go to him and seek his forgiveness. Should you not
attempt reconciliation, this will hinder your relationship with God. Your
worship, your prayers and service to the Lord will not be acceptable.
"Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your
brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar,
and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and
offer your gift" (Matt. 5:23-24).
Note that the scripture says "if your brother has something against you." In other words, you might not feel that you have legitimately violated your brother or sister. But if you are aware that "they" harbor an offense against you, you still are obligated to go and try to resolve the issue. Be willing to be humble and submissive to others, even when you don't consider yourself to be at fault. Don't be so rigid and self-righteous that you stand in the way of a brother or sister's reconciliation with you or with God (Rom. 15:1-3). Offer your unpretentious, sincere apology for any unintentional offense and make every effort to reconcile, so that your relationship with God will not be hindered. Whether or not they pardon you, you have done your part and released your soul from blame.