I had a friend who was a little mixed up about what scripture teaches. When she started coming to my church she was living with a man who claimed to be a Christian but didn’t believe that official marriage was necessary. He told her they were married in the eyes of God. Another woman in the church learned of it and was troubled by this sexual sin. So she thought she should follow the procedures outlined by Jesus in this Matthew passage. After talking to my friend about her sin, she didn’t have a chance to bring two or three others with her because my friend stopped going to church.
What the well-intentioned woman missed when she applied the scripture was the little phrase “sins against you.” I don’t doubt my friend was living in sin – even though she was deceived. But her sin was against God, not the other woman.
Jesus’ instructions to His followers are for specific sins against each of us. Never mind the people around me.
I love my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can’t think of any sins against me that they’ve committed. So I need to set this passage aside. I don’t want to apply it wrongly.
But it’s good to lean how Jesus wants me to interact with other believers. If I’m hurt by one of them, I need to identify a specific sin and not get angry over a perceived one. Then I need to realize that all sin is against God. If a believer hurts me, I should ask if it’s really me they’ve sinned against.
It’s not my place to talk to them about it unless it truly is against me. If I do talk to them, it should be to win them back, not to ease my hurt. And if I go to the second step and take witnesses with me, it’s so we can win them back. And if we need to go to the third step, it’s taken out of my hands. The church decides what to do about it.
Even at this stage, even if the decision is to treat them like a pagan, the goal is to win them back. How are we to treat non-believers? Tell them the good news with love.
So I think Jesus is warning me not to be quick to think someone sinned against me. And if they have, whatever the circumstances or outcome, I should be concerned for their soul.
But I hope I’m more concerned with my sin against other believers than with their sins against me.