Context Matters: Where Two or Three are Gathered in Jesus’ Name

What is our quorum for ensuring the blessing of Jesus’ presence?

Jesus’ speech in Matt 18 addresses what the new covenant community of Christ-followers should look like. It speaks to such things as humility, compassion, initiative, conflict, restoration, and forgiveness. This speech particularly highlights how to handle the sin that will inevitably infect the community.

 

Perhaps you’ve heard that Jesus is specially present when two or three people gather in his name (Matt 18:20). And perhaps you’ve wondered how that jives with the fact that he is present with all of his disciples when they make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching (Matt 28:19-20). Or how it’s any different from the fact that the Father sees and hears when you pray to him alone and in secret (Matt 6:6). Couldn’t Matthew get it straight? What is our quorum for ensuring the blessing of Jesus’ presence?

Context matters. When we learn to read the Bible properly—and not merely as a collection of one-liners and sound bites—we’ll find that some of the most famous passages take on different and deeper meanings than we’ve thought.

Life in the Kingdom

Jesus’ speech in Matt 18 addresses what the new covenant community of Christ-followers should look like. It speaks to such things as humility, compassion, initiative, conflict, restoration, and forgiveness. This speech particularly highlights how to handle the sin that will inevitably infect the community.

Offense from Sin

After telling his disciples that we must not despise any straying sinner, for God seeks to win every one of them back (Matt 18:10-14), Jesus moves into practical instruction regarding what to do when someone sins against you (Matt 18:15-20). In other words, it’s one thing to feel compassion for people whose sin hurts only themselves; it’s far more challenging to lovingly pursue those whose sin has hurt you personally.

Yet that is the very situation Jesus speaks to: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault” (Matt 18:15). When you’re directly affected by another person’s sin, to the point where you’re tempted to despise that person (Matt 18:10), your first recourse is to speak to that brother or sister privately.

If that doesn’t work, bring one or two others along for another set of conversations, to provide witnesses for the interaction (Matt 18:16).

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