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Church Discipline, Disciple Discipline

Church Discipline, Disciple Discipline

Matthew 18: 15-20.


So what do we do when people are a pain in the neck?

Especially church folk.

When people are a pain in the neck out with churches then we can just ignore them.

If people are a pain in the neck to society then we can phone the police and let them deal with it.

But in churches, in churches we are supposed to love everyone and get on with everyone.

So what do we do when people are a pain in the neck?

Well the first good news is that this has always been a problem.

There was no time in church history when everyone got on with everyone else.

Even when Jesus was about, the disciples used to argue with each other.

James and John were even called the Brothers of Thunder, you don't get that nickname by being calm and collected all the time.

Then once the cross and resurrection had happened you would think that everyone would see how awesome the work and example of Christ was and be perfect with each other. But that never happened.

In fact at the start of the church the gentile Christians complained that the Jewish Christians were getting more food from the food bank.

Then Paul and Barnabas were sent out to give the good news to the Roman Empire and they fell out over where Mark should be allowed to go with them. You see they had been out before on their missionary journey and Mark had got homesick halfway through it and gone home. Now they were off again and Mark wanted to come along this time. Barnabas thought that Mark had grown and should be given a second chance, Paul thought that they shouldn’t risk having an important mission disrupted by bringing a liability like Mark. And they fell out over it.

Even Paul and Peter fell out over how to treat gentile Christians.

People in churches fall out.

That’s why this part is in here.

So if people in churches fall out, then what should we do about it?

And in one sense this passage seems kind of simple.

Part 1...admit that you have fallen out.

Now this might seem obvious but the number of times that I have done something to get up Roseanna's nose and we can’t get it sorted out because she admit there is a problem.

Let me give you a hypothetical example. The toilet seat. Let’s say I have left the toilet seat up one too many times and Roseanna is fed up with me always forgetting to put it back down and it has got right up her nose.

Now you would think that was a simple thing to deal with,.

Roseanna comes up to me and says, ‘Jim, will you start remembering to put the toilet seat down because it is getting up my nose.’

But for some reason it never works out that way.

For some reason Roseanna thinks that the toilet seat isn’t something that should annoy her that much. We shouldn't be arguing over something as pathetic as the toilet seat. So we won't argue, because to her head we don’t have a problem.

Now she has told her head that, but not told her heart that. And she is inwardly seething. And what you don't say, you act.

But I am so emotional thick that I don’t pick up on this. I just think things are nice and quiet.

But my children pick up on it, they can feel it.

To them you can cut the atmosphere with a knife in the house.

‘What’s dad done now?’ they will ask.

And Roseanna will say, ‘Nothing. Everything’s fine.’

And then they will come into me and say, ‘What have you done to hurt mum?’

And I will say, ‘err nothing. What are you on about?’

‘How long has it been since mum talked to you?’

And I will say, ‘Err she comes in every day and says, ‘’There’s your dinner.’’ and then walks out so I don't get a chance to talk to her.’

But then once the penny has dropped and I ask her what’s up. She says, ‘Nothing.’

Sometimes we don't want to admit that someone else has done something that has gotten up our nose. We might think it is too petty to be annoyed about it. But the trouble with itchy noses, is that if you don't scratch them they get worse.

The first thing in dealing with a problem is admitting you have a problem.

Part 2. Go to them alone and try to sort it out. Now that makes sense, just the two of you, quietly, reasonably, talking it through.

That way it is all sorted and no one else is involved.

There is a series of reality shows in TV just now that start off with The Real Wives of...

Every time I watch a snippet of one of those programmes they show us how not to deal with problems.

Let’s say Angela is one of those real wives, and she has a gripe with Samantha, another real wife, because Samantha bought the dress for the wedding that Angela wanted to wear and she knew Angela wanted to wear that dress at the wedding but now she can’t wear that dress because Samantha will be at the same wedding and wearing that dress...and it doesn’t even look good on Samantha.

So we are talking really serious problem.

Does Angela go to Samantha and say, ‘I really wanted to wear that dress at the wedding.’?

No. Angela gets Michelle and Karen together for a meal and spill out what a horrible friend Samantha is for buying that dress. And that dress even makes her bum look huge. Well Michelle then has to phone her friend Samantha and ask her when she stopped going to the gym. When Samantha asks why she thinks she has stopped going to the gym then Michelle says that it’s just that Angela said that Michelle’s bum is just pure cellulite, that she has let her body go big time and she should never have bought a dress that makes her bum look so saggy.

Of course the next scene is Samantha and Angela we think the situation is better or worse?

You would think they would learn their lesson, but every episode is the same.

They fall out with someone and then talk to everyone else except the person that they have fallen out with.

Talk to the person alone and try to sort it out.

Part 3. If that doesn't work out then get a trusted mediator that both of you believe cares for you. And sit down and try to sort it out. I think the main point of this bit is that we don’t give up on the friendship. It is so easy in our pace of life to just let relationships go. And if something has gone wrong then we can just let the pace of our life let the other person drift out of our life. And that is just sad.

Especially when there is so much in our life that isn’t easy and to give up on a friend, even loose a friend seems a tough thing to do.

Part 4. If that doesn’t work then it may need a decision of the whole church, because by now that relationship is probably hurting the whole church.

A minister friend of mine and his wife divorced. If there was a way for them not to do it then they did it that way.

They didn't start off talking about it, then getting a mediator, then trying to get the church to help them.

They started off telling their friends how unreasonable the other person was.

Then they kept on talking and talking, but never to each other.

Of course their friends started then talking to each other. And their friends of friends started to talk to anyone else that wanted to listen.

With time this couple became the talk of the steamy. And some in the steamy felt they had a responsibility to tell one or the other of the spouses just how unreasonable they were. So when that spouse was talked to in the streets about how unreasonable they were they then resented the other spouse even more for spreading lies about them.

Of course by now the members of the church have taken sides depending on which stories they have heard, which stories they believe, and which of the spouse’s they feel is the one to blame for the break up.

Things got darker and darker until the only people who were actually speaking were the lawyers.

The real irony here...

The real irony is that we may know Part 1 to Part 4 is reasonable and what we should do, but we conveniently forget it because we want to deal with it our way.

And our way is the way when we have to prove that the other person is completely at fault. They have hurt us, and we want them to hurt just as much.

And in doing that we want to go straight to Part 5, deal with them as if they are pagans and tax collectors and chuck them out of our life.

And the saddest part is, that isn’t what this passage says.

‘Finally, if he will not listen to the church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector.’

You know, it may be that for some relationships things have gotten so toxic that the best thing you can do is just not talk to each other for a while.

That maybe time needs to be given when emotions aren’t raw to let things settle and calm down. And maybe after a while each person sees how stupid the argument was.

But I don’t think that is what this passage is saying.

I think this passage is saying that it knows the root of the problem in the first place.

And that the reason we get ourselves in the mess is that we have forgotten the root of the problem.

‘Finally, if he will not listen to the church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector.’

Remember who is saying these words.

Jesus is the one saying these words.

And how did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?

His whole ministry was a ministry of reaching out to pagans and tax collectors, of letting them know that they weren't outcasts, that they were deeply loved by him because they were deeply loved by their heavenly father.

While others used them as examples of how not to live their lives, Jesus talked about one praying in the temple and they were closer to God than the Pharisee.

While others kept them far from their lives, Jesus ate with them and shared with them.

While others had given up on them, Jesus made them his disciples.

So this passage is saying, ‘When everything else has failed, love them and be willing to sacrifice for them the way Jesus sacrificed for them.’

I think this last sentance should have come at the start rather than at the end.

Because maybe the problem starts when our hearts change.

That moment when we see someone as a problem.

That moment when we see someone as a pain in the neck.

That moment when we see someone as unworthy of our care.

That moment when we stop treating them the way that Jesus treated tax collectors and pagans.

Maybe our lives would be easier if we became aware of our hearts.

And at that moment when we stop caring for someone the way Christ cares for them, for us just to stop and ask ourselves why we have done that.

And then ask ourselves if we want to continue to go down that path.

And if we don’t, then what would Jesus do to heal that relationship?

Trust me, there is enough pain in the world without us adding to it.

And there is enough trouble in the world that we could never have too many friends.

So anything we can do to make friendships stronger is worth it.

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