In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus talks about approaching someone who did something to separate that person from God—commonly known as sinning. Usually, we think about sin as an act between a person and God, but there are communal aspects to sin. When I do something wrong, I separate myself from God, but the sin has earthly implications too. These implications for the here and now are what Jesus is addressing. We approach someone who sins, not to forgive their sin, but to seek reconciliation.
Within Jesus’ teaching about reproving one another in Matthew 18, he gives the assurance that God is always present. He says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). We do not act in isolation. We act in the presence of God. Both reconciliation and dissension affect God and other people. God is present and quick to forgive, but sometimes people need to work on it.
Even if it is only two or three people, being together in the name of Christ creates common ground. When we gather in Jesus’ name, we share something significant. Jesus is the motivation for our fellowship. He provides the archetype of the perfect life and something for which we can strive to achieve.
John Chrysostom (347-407), a leader in the early church, describes gathering in Jesus’ name as a motivation for Christian love. He writes, “Some love because they are loved. Others love because they have been honored. Still others show love because the person was useful to them… It’s hard to find people who love their neighbors sincerely for the sake of Christ.”
Normally, worldly affairs bring people together. Instead of coming together because of worldly affairs, the church is unique. We come together because of the love of Christ. We lift one another up in prayer, encourage each other, ask how we are doing, and hold one another accountable. We “speak the truth in love” to one another (Ephesians 4:15). We bring each other back from wandering (James 5:20).
John Chrysostom writes, “Love for the sake of Christ is firm. It cannot be broken. Nothing can tear it apart… the love of those who are bound by it will never stop.”
Let us let our lives and our church reflect a vivid love for the sake of Christ. We can seek ways to embody it and reflect it to our community.