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The One Law of Christ we don’t want to obey

The chosen hymns for this week, Dawn and We are One can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.

The One Law of Christ we don’t want to obey

Matthew 18: 15-17


Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday for 6th September.

In the end of March we went into lockdown.

Who would have thought that in September we would still not be in a position where people could freely walk into a church to worship?

Last Friday I awaited the latest guidelines from head office, I think that this is guidelines number 6. And these guidelines aren’t small; nearly 60 pages long.

Not an easy read, and hard sometimes to get your head around.

I imagine that we all feel the same way when Nicola Sturgeon gets up every day to give the latest set of rules and regulations. And by the questions the reporters ask it is obvious that there are some rules we understand and others that we don’t, some rules that we feel are easy to follow and some rules that we are very reluctant to follow.

But here’s what I want to reflect on today.

The one rule of Christ that we ignore the most.

If you’re not too sure which one it is then you’ll find out when Kay gives our reading today.

Kay: Reading Matthew 18: 15-17


‘If someone sins against you, you go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves.’

It’s not complicated.

It isn’t too hard to understand.

I remember a preacher I heard in the past saying, ‘Everyone goes on about how hard the Bible is. I am not worried about the bits I don’t understand. It’s the bits I do understand that scare me.’

I wonder if I interrogated Christians that don’t read the Bible wither they would tell me at first that they don’t read the Bible because it is too complicated, too difficult to understand. But if I had them for a bit longer, I reckon I could work out that the REAL reason they don’t read the Bible is that they are terrified that they would have to live up to the bits of the Bible that they do understand.

This passage is a case in point.

‘If someone sins against you, you go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves.’

Why did Jesus give us this instruction?

And right at the start of this sermon I want to make this point clear.

This is an instruction of Christ.

It is not a suggestion, not a recommendation, not a guideline, not an option.

It is clear, it is definitive; it is to be done.

‘If someone sins against you, you go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves.’

So why does Jesus give us this instruction?

Because it works.

Let me give you an example.

Today John, my probationer, is helping me record this message.

Imagine that John goes from here and does a pastoral visit, let’s call him Peter.

And Peter says, ‘I heard you were recording Jim’s service today.’

And John says, ‘Yes I wasn’t too happy with it.’

Now the reason John isn’t too happy with it is because there was a lot of traffic outside and he is worried that the noise of the traffic will be a distraction to the inspirational words of wisdom I am giving.

But Peter doesn’t take that meaning.

Peter goes off to the COOP and meets someone and says, ‘I was talking to John and he says he isn’t happy with Jim’s sermon. I’m not surprised; he hasn’t given a decent sermon in ages.’

And that person then meets someone else at the bus stop and says, ‘Did you hear, even John thinks Jim’s sermon in Sunday is rubbish.’

And that person then tells someone at the school gate and my wife overhears it and then tells me.

‘If someone sins against you, you go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves.’

So I follow the commandment of Christ.

I phone up John and say, ‘John I hear that you weren’t happy about the sermon we recorded today.’

And John says, ‘Yes I was worried about the noise of the traffic outside. I had a horrible feeling that we might need to record it again. But I’ve started to edit it and the recording has come out fine.’


Everyone is happy.

But you and I both know that that isn’t what we do.

And when Jesus gave this commandment he knew that this isn’t what we want to do.

But he also knew that what we do doesn’t work.

There are two things that we are tempted to do.

One is we pretend to be noble.

We decide that we will turn the other cheek.

Someone has hurt us; we should turn the other cheek. We will be the better person; we will do the noble thing.

Only we are lying to ourselves. We are not being noble; we are not turning the other cheek.

Instead we are putting that insult in a wee corner of our mind and letting it fester.

We will now judge everything that person does through the lens of, ‘John is not to be trusted.’ ‘John is the kind of person who insults me behind me back.’

And it festers and festers and builds up and builds up until it explodes out...usually over the most trivial of things.

Have you been to a family gathering and there’s a strange tension in the air? You ask the mother if something is wrong and you get, ‘Nothings wrong.’

Then during the main meal someone says, ‘The gravy seems a bit watery.’

And suddenly the mother is screaming and shouting about how no one ever appreciates what she does and she is sick and tired of being used by everyone in the family.

And everyone is looking round wondering where this anger came from.

That’s because someone has been hurt and just said nothing, let it fester.

It doesn’t work.

But some of us think that’s what we should do.

Even though it is not what Jesus tells us to do.

The other thing we do is the exact opposite of that. Even the exact opposite of what Jesus tells us to do.

‘If someone sins against you, you go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves.’

Someone hurts us.

We don’t want to face them.

We go to anyone and everyone else and tell them how we have been hurt.

So I go to my wife and say, ‘Did you hear what John said about me. Thinks my sermons are rubbish. Who does he think he is?’

I am doing my pastoral visits and someone says, ‘I heard John is moving soon to his own church.’

And I say, ‘We can’t get rid of him quick enough. Did you know he slag’s people off behind their backs?’

Now we convince ourselves that it is ok to do this. We have been hurt and we need someone to comfort us and tell us that we don’t deserve these attacks on us.

But the truth is that we think they have hurt our reputation and we want to make sure their reputation is hurt just as bad.

I have had people who were friends for decades; fall out over stupid things because they talked to everyone except each other.

I know of one minister who was furious at a member of his congregation. The member of his congregation felt offended over something he thought the minister had said and this member started to mouth off against the minister to everyone except the minister.

The minister found out and then did as this scripture says and talked to him privately about it. It got all sorted, it was all a misunderstanding. But then the minister asked the man if he would go round everyone that he talked to and tell them that he had got it wrong and it was now all sorted. And the man was horrified.

He was quiet happy that his relationship with the minister had been fixed, but was unwilling to repair all the damage that he had created between the minister and all those other people.

Because the man hadn’t done what Jesus told him to do, because the man hadn’t gone to the minister first and sorted it out he had created a mess that was difficult to fix..

The commandment that Jesus gives us is very clear.

It is not hard to do. We pretend it is hard because we don’t want to do it.

But Jesus gives us this commandment because the world is already hard, and we need as much support and help we can get. And if there are people that we have decided we don’t trust, if there are people we have decided we are alienated from, then that is whole swath of people that can’t help us when we need it.

‘If someone sins against you, you go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves.’

Holding it in doesn’t help.

Talking to everyone else except the person that’s hurt you doesn’t help.

Talking to them? At least it stands a chance of working.

If nothing else, you clarify the situation,

but who knows, maybe you can find a friend again, and who doesn’t benefit from another friend?

One last thing.

If this doesn’t work there is the safety net of getting help from one or two friends as mediators.

Then if that doesn’t work there is the further safety net of the wisdom and council of the whole church fellowship.

Then if that doesn’t work we are to treat them as a tax collector.

But remember this; Jesus loved tax collectors, one became a disciple, Matthew the writer of this Biblical passage, and another Zacchaeus Jesus went out his way to save. We never give up on anyone, because Christ never gave up on us.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father,

How many imaginary conversations have we had?

How many sleepless nights have we faced?

Why do we put up with it when there is a solution?

When we think about it, how much of a grievance would you have with us?

You have given us a wonderful life, amazing opportunities, and all you ask of us is that we see life for the gift it is.

But we in return spend so much of our life being envious of others, jealous of what they have instead of being grateful for what we have?

Reluctant to put effort into making more of our life then complaining how hard and unfair our life is when we have been given in abundance and other have so little.

We have not a heart of joyful thankfulness rejoicing in the fellowships, the homes, the support we have.

And yet you still care for us, still wish the best for us.

Help us to be as generous with others are you are with us.

To be honest about our hurts and to seek to deal with them in a constructive way.

This we ask in Jesus name


Until next time...

Remember the church is open for prayer on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 4pm

And Sundays between 6-8pm.

We will be celebrating Harvest at the end of September so if anyone wants to hand in any donations which will be going to the local food-bank then you can do so when we are open for private prayer. They are especially looking for multipacks of sweets as a moral boost for children, and pet food so that families that suddenly find themselves struggling don’t need to give up the family pet.

At these times you can also hand in the bottle tops for charity, collect the church magazine and hand in your collections or donations.

A blessing

Hear the Father speak words of comfort.

Hear the Son speak words of hope.

Hear the Spirit speak words of peace.

And may we inspire your comfort, hope and peace in others


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