Does this mean that we are to ignore sin in our fellow brother or sister’s life? No, of course not. Matthew 18 is the famous and unpopular chapter about church discipline. Jesus describes starting in v15 in very practical terms how we are to deal with a brother who sins against you.
Go to the person who sinned against you. Go in private and work it out just the two of you. Don’t humiliate the person in public. Don’t talk behind the person’s back and gossip and slander. You deal with him privately and personally. If he doesn’t repent, then you go and involve someone else. If the person still doesn’t repent, then bring it before the church.
I want to ask, in your relationships, do you follow this? Isn’t it far easier when someone sins against you to avoid the person and then talk to a dozen other people to gain their sympathy. That’s unloving. It’s unbiblical. Jesus outlines these steps because helping people with their sin is so unnatural for us. Instead of following Matthew 18 in its entire context, we would either speak directly to the person who wrongs us and gouge out their eyes. Or we talk behind their back and garner sympathy for our cause.
We cannot ignore sin. We have to confront sin, but here are some practical steps to do it in the least damaging and most edifying way for the other person who is in sin. Not only that, if we read these verses about confronting sin in someone else in the context of the entire chapter, then wouldn’t our attitude be different? These practical steps of going and confronting your brother who is in sin privately, then bringing another person as a witness, then the entire church–it is possible to follow these steps in a manner, with an attitude that destroys the person in sin.
We have to practice these verses about confronting sin in another person with fear and trembling before God so that we don’t stumble one of God’s little ones. We need to confront sin with much prayer, with brotherly affection, with grace and tenderness because ultimately we want to restore the little child to their heavenly Father.
Isn’t this how God treats us? The Parable of the Lost Sheep starts in v10 with the phrase–
10 See that you do not LOOK DOWN on one of these little ones…
“Look down” is an interesting choice of words. We are all little ones. We are all on the same level. The same way that adults shouldn’t look down on children because we think we know better, as Christians, we shouldn’t look down at others from a position of superiority.
How does God treat one of these little ones? Verses 12-14.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
Look at how tenderly God treats his little ones. He doesn’t look down on these little ones. He leaves the 99 to go after the one. He drops everything, he ignores the “stronger” sheep who are under his care and his heart zeroes in on the one “weaker” sheep who is about to be devoured. Each and every sheep are little ones to God and one precious little one is on the verge of being lost forever. This is how God treats one of these little ones. We are not to look down on little ones who are struggling. We are not supposed to elevate ourselves or the 99 who are not stumbling at present.
This is how God treats one of His little ones. Shouldn’t we treat others with the same care and concern and love that God cares for one of his little ones who has lost his way?
Our motivation for treating others this way is more than simply observing God, observing Jesus and trying to emulate their behavior. Not only does God give us an example in Christ for us to imitate, God also gives us the ABILITY, the power, to treat others this way.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant explains where that ability comes from. Read Matt 18:21-35.
Again, we have to read this in context. How can we remain humble like a child? How can we treat others, pointing out sin but in a way that doesn’t stumble nor tempt one of God’s little ones to fall into greater sin, but instead, edifies and restores? The answer to both questions is that we have to recognize how God treats us. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He doesn’t say, you owe me a million dollars and now you have to work for me and pay back every last cent. No, he cancels the debt. He washes our sin away. We are fully cleansed and fully restored, the debt is paid in full the moment we repent and place our faith in Christ.
This grace and mercy transforms hearts to the point that we can extend the same grace and mercy to others. There is a deep, radical internal change of heart. Even when we are wronged and we are deeply hurt, we remember the great debt that God canceled on our behalf and we have the roominess of heart to forgive others.
Therefore, stay humble. Know that you are a beloved child of God. Know that Jesus left the 99 to pursue you. Because you are that precious. You are one of his little ones. In addition, as recipients of this tremendous grace and mercy, go and treat others the same way God treats you in Christ. They, too, are His little ones.
4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
Verse 4 is about our identity and verse 5 is about our relationships. Now, let’s pull these two ideas together.
What is true greatness? True greatness is possessing a passionate love for Jesus that expresses itself in a love and concern for others. Parents, teach this to your kids. Everyone here, do you want to be great? Then, spend time being a child in your Father’s arms. If people see you doing this, they might say, you are wasting your time. You are not making anything of your life. You are throwing away your potential. But to God, if you invest your life being a child in His arms, he says, you are achieving true greatness.