Read Matthew 18
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Causing to Stumble
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
The Parable of the Wandering Sheep
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 
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, truly I tell you, 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 perish.
Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
God created the world with the design for us to be in right relationship with Him and with each other. When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, those relationships were fractured. As we know, conflict is inevitable in our world as a result of sin and brokenness, but the scripture calls us as believers to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Resolving conflict well and extending forgiveness are essential to having relationships that last, and God gives us instruction in this chapter on how to do that.
Matthew 18 clearly walks us through the steps to take when a believer is in sin. The first step is to go to the person privately to clearly express your hurt (v. 15). If you have not resolved the conflict after going to them, widen the circle and “take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (v. 16). If there is no resolution after this takes place, take it to the local church. Finally, if the conflict is not resolved, treat that person like a “pagan or tax collector”. How do you do that? You share the gospel with them and love them (v. 17).
Then Jesus enters into a story about the kingdom of heaven and why we forgive. In this parable, we see that the Master is God, the servant is us, and the debt is our sin. The first servant had been forgiven of a debt to the Master that he could not repay. He then turned around and was unwilling to forgive a small debt that was owed to him by another servant (v.28). This parable reveals to us how important forgiveness is to God, and that our forgiveness towards others is a picture of His forgiveness towards us.
Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. We have all sinned against a holy and powerful God (Romans 3:23).Our sin against Him is bigger than we could imagine and costs us more than we could pay. But all of God’s anger and wrath towards our sin was satisfied on the cross, which allowed Him to forgive us. We are commanded as believers to forgive those who have sinned against us, just as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiven people are forgiving people. Let’s fight for unity as believers, and make every effort to keep it!
- Can you think of a time where you have handled conflict poorly?
- Is there someone in your life that you have not forgiven?
- How can you use conflict as an opportunity to show the love of Christ?
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