Sin in the Church, Steps to Reconciliation

Matthew provides Jesus’ 3-step process for dealing with sin in the church, our brothers and sisters. He loves the church so much that he wants us to be responsible and self-correcting. Here are three simple steps that are often the most challenging things we will ever do.

Matthew 18:15-20

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One Reply to “Sin in the Church, Steps to Reconciliation”

  1. Dealing with sin inside the church is a serious matter. Here we have a logical progression to remember.

    1. Go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. No texting, emails or even phone calls. If you love your brother or sister in Christ and they have sinned, the best thing you can do is handle the matter privately and efficiently. Everyone wins. But if it seems like you are not getting anywhere, don’t argue or become judge and jury, just let them know that you’re proceeding to step two.
    2. If that doesn’t work, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ Jewish laws require the witnesses for a good reason–it’s designed to eliminate personal bias or prejudice. Since this is the second step, the person who you believe has sin to wrestle with should be expecting the visit from the council. Again, remember this is someone inside the church, our approach is one of restoration, not of malice and condemnation. Hopefully the matter is resolved here, but if not, they should be advised that it must be brought before the church, step three.
    3. Tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Now the whole church is involved. Sad. At this point we are likely to see a rift in the assembly, but if we’re at this point, there must be corroborating evidence that sin exists and our brother or sister simply refuses to admit the err of their ways. Treating them as a pagan or tax collector is not an evil punishment. In fact, it’s just the opposite since we are tasked to go and make disciples of all the earth, we should be dealing with those who are far from God. However, as an outsider, they are not privileged to be part of the leadership or decision-making of the church.


    Most of the time when we review this passage, we’re thinking about someone else in the church. As I read this again, I think it’s important to understand we must expect to be on the receiving end and be prepared to listen to someone who is confronting us–we must be good listeners.

    By comparison I think of musicians and an effective band. In rehearsals we must be honest and open with each other, quickly admitting mistakes and correcting ourselves; otherwise, the music isn’t heard, the song won’t make sense. If we allow one member to play the wrong notes or the singers sing the wrong words, we don’t convey the meaning of the song as written. In a worship context this means we don’t honor Christ because we ultimately confuse the congregation. Working together, admitting faults and moving forward, the music is allowed to minister to the people.

    It’s a great lesson of teamwork and the reason I’m a strong proponent of team events. Working together we accomplish much more than individuals without accountability. It’s this self-checking and willingness to be checked that should separate us from the rest of the world. So often this is not the case, but we should not let that deter us from working toward that end. Lord, help us to strengthen our community and be the light for this dark world to see!

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