18 November 2011

Matthew 18:10-20

"Trule I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (v. 18)


In yesterday's passage Jesus' friends have asked him about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven and he replies by giving them the example of a child. He then goes on to condemn anyone who would put a "stumbling block" (v. 6) in the way of children. Today's verses continue to explore the responsibility that we have to other people in our communities and build on the idea of what it might mean to create or remove a stumbling block for others.

The parable of the lost sheep emphasises how important to Jesus is even a single little one who goes astray and the verses following build on this. If Jesus' words about stumbling blocks are about our community responsibility to avoid causing others to fall then his instructions in this passage are about our responsibility to others if and when they do fall. Just as the shepherd pursues the one lost sheep, so we are to engage with the member of our community who "sins against you" (v. 15). Rather than withdrawing and criticising from afar with vengeful gossip (however justified we may feel in our behaviour) we are to pursue them and speak to them privately. Only if that fails are we told to involve other people in the matter and even then with only one or two others.

Jesus is advocating a process of great care and respect when dealing with disagreements. In verse 18 he points out how much power we have when we deal with people - our binding and our loosing echo in heaven as well as on earth. We have an awesome responsibility to those we are in community with. Jesus shows us that our words, our actions and our attitudes can not only cause others to stumble for a moment but they also have eternal ramifications.

To Ponder

How have you dealt in the past with people you feel have wronged you?

How does this measure up to the way Jesus calls us to deal with them?

What would the Church, or any community to which we belong, look like if we acted in the way that Jesus is advocating?

Bible notes author

The Revd Ric Stott

Ric Stott is a Methodist minister and works for the Sheffield Methodist District as a Venture FX pioneer exploring new ways of being church, based around the creative arts. He is an artist and art psychotherapist, and is particularly interested in how creativity can help us to explore and develop spirituality, identity and community.