In an effort to be transparent, I started this blog with the specific intent of confronting issues within the church for the purpose of accountability, healing, and hope. I want that to be at the forefront of everything that I say and do. However, to ensure that the subject matter of this blog is clear, this writing is more of a foundational post of the lt9nine.com website.
I want the reader to fully understand not only my story of “why”, but also wanted to give a scriptural base to all content on this blog. I never want it to be misunderstood or taken out of context, so through this blog post, I want to explore Matthew 18 and how it relates to how we should treat the broken, how we begin confronting issues within the church, and how we can see God truly work on our behalf in resolution.
I pray that you have an open mind each time you visit the site on various topics, be ready to reflect internally, engage in conversation, and do the work so that we can fully be the church that God has called us to be. Let’s begin.
Oh the Overwhelming, Neverending…
A lot of churches have reveled in the song “Reckless Love” over the past few years. Although it is a powerful message of God’s love toward us, there is one phrase in the song that has encouraged so many believers.
The phrase, “chases me down, fights ’til I’m found leaves the 99” is rooted in the scripture Luke 15:4-7.
Now I will admit, when I first heard this song, I too was moved to tears in gratitude. I was comforted in my walk with God and how His grace had miraculously saved me. There was no mountain he wouldn’t climb up coming after me. Yes. After a time something about these words started settling differently in my heart than it had in those first moments. It wasn’t the song, it was fine, the writer’s intent eloquently put into perspective the care and love of God. Still, I wrestled with finding a deeper truth in what unsettled part of me revealed. I searched and what I found was, there was another scripture that the phrase “leaves the 99” was in, its Matthew’s account of the same time that Jesus was teaching.
What has resonated deeply within me is, in our filled churches, we love talking about how God saved us (Luke 15:4-7). However, we have yet to experience the true power of the other scripture, Matthew 18:12-14, and its connected scriptures. We have worshipped with a song that has had a powerful message of God’s faithfulness toward us, yet Matthew 18 offers more than just an opportunity for gratitude but also offers an opportunity of reflection to our call.
With the song, we recognize that we were once the one God sought after. For this, we should be grateful, I know that I am. But, one of the most important parts of Matthew’s scripture that we cannot forget is; the one in this scripture has much more to offer us in learning. My post will shed light on a different vantage point of the one; necessity is to find the one, to reconcile the one, and to bring the one back into the fold.
Is It Truly about the One?
We often say it; we have our core values repeated each week that says “we reach the lost, mend the brokenhearted”, etc. But, other than the Christians that you attend church within the tidy, well “produced” services, where is the one? Truly… Where is room for the one in the seats we make “ours” each week when we come early to get our blessing?
I believe, repositioning our thinking to understand that we as the church are required to shift to focus on the one is necessary for us to experience God moving on our behalf; to begin seeing the things of heaven align with the things of earth. Matthew 18 provides a clear roadmap for us and if you read this chapter as a whole, you’ll begin to see an order to how we can experience true unity within the body and the lost come to Christ. This will be an aim and shoot and a bullseye hit on the target of our goal as Christians.
Suffer the Little Children, Watch for Pitfalls
When reading Matthew 18, in the first verses, Jesus was teaching in order to shape the church’s way of thinking. He was laying, yet another, foundation to the format of how the church should exist. In the few beginning verses, Jesus referenced the most valuable in the Kingdom of God; those with a child-like heart. Continuing teaching, this very balanced message deals with humility, how to treat people, the danger of being a stumbling block for someone else, and how to not stumble yourself.
For many years we have heard this message taught in a lot of church environments. The part that has been focused on the most is how we keep ourselves from stumbling. Although “causing someone to stumble” is taught, it’s rarely dealt with as it relates to the church’s actions and doings; rarely blared loud that the church can easily find itself complicit in hurting others, and causing those “little ones” in faith to fall.
What seems to be a consistent thread, in the community of believers, is how we treat those fallen away; by way of shaming, ignoring, and doing away with altogether. We reiterate the ways we shouldn’t fall and point to the err in holding onto things that cause a fall; never fully addressing the scripture that warns and points to the way God feels about those causing someone to fall; within the church at least.
“Woe (judgment is coming) to the world because of stumbling blocks and temptations to sin! It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to the person on whose account or through whom the stumbling block comes!”
Matthew 18:7Amplified Bible
For the sake of this blog post, again, we will focus on the church. While we will still talk about the one and their active responsibility; this post will directly address how the church has erred, how to serve the one, and how, through confronting issues within the church, we can bring them into reconciliation.
More than ever, what the world needs to see, at this moment, is a church recognizant of its own patterns. We need a church no longer willing to be apart of the err, but willing to admit where we’ve been part of the problem and that we desire to begin confronting issues within the church.
Leave the 99. Focus on the Lost.
Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn’t want to lose even one of these simple believers.
Matthew 18:12-14The Message Bible
In Matthew 18:12-14, Jesus used an example of a shepherd that had one-hundred sheep yet left ninety-nine of them to pursue a sheep that had fallen away. Tied to previous verses, He was clear that something caused this sheep to fall away and the necessity was on making sure they were rightfully restored; even if it meant focusing on the one more than catering to the ones already within the fold.
In the modern-day church, being the example of Jesus means that we should be willing to actively pursue those that are broken and fallen away. More than having great church appeal, a good message on tithing, filling seats, and having a spectacular presentation in the worship music portion of a service, we need to find ourselves actively pursuing those broken, lost and falling away.
As I see it, we have forgotten that our focus should NEVER be more about the Christians firmly connected in the ninety-nine than it is on the one who is not in the fold. The broken; the abused; the mistreated; the lost; those are the ones who we should be after.
Again, reading the 18th chapter of Matthew revealed to be something more striking than just being grateful for God’s mercy. This opened my eyes to the absolute need for accountability for what’s broken and the work necessary to restore. But how do we become a conduit for that restoration?
Confronting Issues Within the Church
The absolute next scripture, Matthew 18:15-17 is all about confronting issues within the church. In our modern-day churches, we have experienced the “righteous” side of this; believers calling the one fallen away out on their sin. As Jesus speaks in verse 15 saying, “go and point out their faults” (KJV), I believe there is some balance within this scripture that we subtly disregard as we hyper-focus in on confronting lost sheep; the one fallen away with THEIR sins.
Remember that within the first few verses (7-9), he addressed two types of people. The one who falls away, and the one who causes one to fall away. This scripture, ”if your brother sins” can easily be applied to both types of people. Yet sadly, in the church, we have kept it focused on the one fallen away.
Since this blog post is geared towards the church, let’s look at how Jesus provides an even clearer direction in how to begin confronting issues within the church.
15 “If another believer[d] sins against you,[e] go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
Matthew 18:15-17New Living Translation
- Go to the person directly, if you settle it, you and they have won. If not,
- Bring an accountable witness
- Tell it to the church.
In an effort to show the flip side of this, I want to reverse roles. I want the church to sit in the shoes of the sin offender, and the righteous accountability to be the lost sheep. After all, we are all brothers, right? Isn’t that God’s aim, that not one of these little ones perish? I believe there’s so much to gain from the difference of perspective that will be invaluable to the church. We will be able to start the process to restore the lost by just being willing to see this from a different angle.
In this perspective, rather than the church being the one pointing to err, The offended/hurt must address their issue; the one addressing the err of how they have been handled. They must begin confronting issues within the church by saying what has hurt them. We have seen this scripture again and again. It tells us that we need to address issues; each time adding people for the sake of accountability, mediation, and resolution. We cannot hold people responsible for the hurt they have caused if we don’t say we’ve been hurt.
Acknowledgment Matters to God
What happens, however, when the issue is communicated and its ignored by the church? What happens when it’s skirted over? Ultimately, in a community of pastors, leaders, and other Christians that ignore confronting issues within the church; we stifle people from freedom when we aren’t willing to accept the responsibility of fault on the other side.
Unfortunately, there are individuals and entire communities of the world that have been deeply wounded by the church. They have addressed their frustrations, their offenses, and they largely have been ignored. We have hurt people in or own churches and families and left them to deal with the damage caused. We’ve left individuals to resolve their hurt and offense and in most cases, it becomes a stumbling block for them.
We know, that based on verse 7, this is a dangerous place for a person to be; one that would allow someone to stay offended even after they have come to you to call it out.
If we leave people broken, by our actions, on the roadside and continue to do the Christian work, do we think God is ignoring it too? I can’t honestly think that a God who values the lost enough to leave the ninety-nine to find the one would be okay with this.
When looking at the stages of accountability in verses 15-17, I, writing this, am speaking from the “Tell it to the church” scripture. In all of the things I have seen, I am saying, out in the open; to the church, “We have offended and hurt people and it’s time we own up to it!” The church has willfully ignored issues when come to individually, with accountability, to pastors, leaders, and flock alike. We are not willing to accept responsibility for a plethora of errs and it is stifling people from freedom.
Here’s the thing; we are excellent at saying what the bar for righteousness and holiness is. We are experts at telling people how their sinful lives are in desperate need of Gods grace, even to a fault. Yet, we have become what the world considers hypocrites because we fail to apply the same scriptures we use on others, on ourselves. Our inability to be found confronting issues within the church, leaves our witness severely hindered.
We’ve even become so very good at preaching for people to forgive and move on, in a way that skirts the issue, but we are not so good at truly owning the things that would make forgiveness an easy path because we’ve put accountability to the wrong and reconciliation at the forefront of the conversation. Specifically, in the church, we would rather keep our prideful positions of explanation, justification, and false narrative than to actually say “I’m sorry, I didn’t get it right” or “I was wrong, forgive me”. Tough statement. BUT. TRUE.
It’s not just the responsibility of the offended to deal with their offense but also, the ones leading the charge; pastors, leaders and Christians alike must accept responsibility for when they are the cause. If we are missional in reaching people; if our goal is to truly win the lost, then we must own wrongs properly. After all, we are to be the example of what the world follows, right?
Let’s Fix It The Right Way
I love the explanation of The Anatomy of Apology and the way it describes how to apologize. An excerpt from it says:
- Take responsibility—don’t blame the situation. Most of all, don’t blame the offended or hurt party (“I’m sorry you chose to be offended.”)
- Acknowledge, don’t minimize, the damage you may have caused.
- Be open to condemning your own behavior. Admit that you have violated your own moral/value code.
- Accept your punishment as justified; make a sacrifice that is as large or larger than the pain you caused. (The bandage needs to be as large or larger than the wound.)
- Commit to avoid the offense in the future. In fact, promise to avoid actions that come close to repeating the offense.
- Don’t expect or demand to be forgiven. Your goal is to demonstrate that you understand the offended person’s values and moral outrage, reject your bad behavior, and not repeat it.
I love how this stands out. We should find eternal value in apologizing; admitting we have broken our own moral/value code. That code should be the one of reconciliation. The same that Jesus had by taking on the sin of the world and dying for us. That love that sees more value in the life of someone broken than seeing their own life’s value. When we are willing to die to ourselves and our egos, being willing to “make the bandage bigger than the wound”, then we can be the example of Jesus in the earth.
How hard is this to understand? Are you spiritual? Well then, you should also fully understand that when you hurt someone, they will not listen to your message of love and grace; you make yourself a less likely candidate to reach them. Proverbs 18:19 (NIV) says “A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.” In most cases, people who are hurt by you will throw the baby out with the bathwater. Owning what you have done properly is a necessary step to reconciling the one.
I tell you, with an open heart and mind, this scripture has revealed a larger spectrum of the lost to me. I begin to see the one not only as the sinner, but as a person who wanted to seek hope in God and was turned away from the church because they didn’t look the part. Someone who allowed themselves to be swept up by things that they held onto, but also as a person not knowledgeable of the depth of Gods love, turned away by Christians who valued their arrogance more than the child-like humility of verse 3.
The one is seen in myself, who had trauma issues, sought the church to be a place of safety, and was taken advantage of, misunderstood, and fell away because I saw such a vast difference between what we professed and what we actually did.
So then, what “power” do we acquire for good works if we can not acknowledge all aspects of why someone is found wandering away?
All of the authority, none of the Access.
“It is the will of God to produce, on Earth, a community of people who are doing precisely what is happening in Heaven so that anytime anybody wants to know what’s going on in Heaven, all they have to do is check with us.”
Tom SkinnerJesus ’73
There are so many times I have heard the scripture Matthew 18:18 “whatsoever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”.
Um…Why is this not working? *Taps the mic* Is this thing on?
When you read Matthew 18:18, you cannot take this scripture out of its context; it holds NO power that way. There is still a standard that Jesus is placing here in regards to addressing the offense and restoring the brother. That is where this scripture lies. So many are seeking to access the authority and power of God using this scripture as their claim, and if you have the heart to understand, the connection between these two scriptures is so clear. In order to access the authority of binding and loosing; earth mirroring heaven, first comes with addressing fault/offense and dealing with it.
“LOOSE HERE”, Nothing Changes
Here’s where the power of God is lacking in the church. It’s in areas where we are not confronting issues within the church that keep people broken. It’s where we don’t acknowledge the errors of our humanness but rather, hide behind the curtain of the sovereignty and power of God as a cover-all. We take a prideful stance as if we are not just sinners covered in the blood. Honestly the challenge is, when we don’t own our mistakes, it limits God from moving through us fully. We want miracles, signs, and wonders but when God points to the signs, we often ignore and then wonder why it’s not working.
When we come to the understanding that it’s our responsibility to mend the broken-hearted by acknowledging their brokenness and the role we have played in it, then we become more equipped to change and impact earth, letting it reflect the unity of heaven. And this is where God resides. He resides in the resolution of the two.
In The Middle of Resolution Resides God
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.
Matthew 18:19New Living Translation
When reading Matthew 18:19 with this new perspective; seeing this powerful scripture tied together with the scriptures before it. I have a new understanding. Unlike what we have been taught when used separately, we don’t have “binding and loosing” power, we don’t have “two or three gathered, there he is” anointing without understanding that it’s all connected to mending the relationship with the ones broken. It’s tied to addressing the things we have messed up.
This place, where God resides, is coupled with the offender and the offended coming together. Verse 15 said, “If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back”. God is pleased in the unity of two or three gathered; those two and three being those that have done with work to reconcile. Now we can attain the “anything you ask, in the will of the Father, He will do it for you”.
This is the power that ignites a fire and breaks chains. This is the anointing to heal the sick, to deliver the oppressed. Just as The Acts 2 church happened when they were “with one accord, in one place”, It’s not enough for two to just be gathered together; it’s in the unity. The power of God is found in our obedience to fixing the things we have allowed to be stumbling blocks for others and, in all honesty, ourselves. Not addressing where we have missed it has ultimately become our own stumbling blocks to being the true example that the church should be.
My Heart On The Matter
I am not negating the next set of scriptures regarding forgiveness, rather, I plan to do another posting in the future to address forgiveness from this same scripture context, from the same perspective. I simply believe we cannot preach telling people to forgive until we are fully confronting issues within the church and aim wholly to own our mistakes. Matter of fact, that scripture doesn’t even show up until Jesus addressed getting hurts and offenses right with your brother.
This blog is designed to go into detail on issues in future postings because the only way we will be able to fully see the extent to the errs we have done and offenses we have caused is if a light is shined on them. As I dig deeper into various topics, I will always seek to show our way back to this passage, and to this resolve. Again, my aim is never to bash the church, its to show us where we need to fix in order to reach the one.
Where We Put In Work
Let us, as the church, strive to acknowledge the things that we do in our humanness. Let’s not make excuses for our humanness, but wholly accept when we don’t get it right. This is okay! It’s okay to be human and make a mistake, and it is more honorable when we let our egos go and, in humility, we just say we missed it; we messed up. Let us own it. Let us seek resolve over pride. Let’s seek unity over justification and over dismissal.
Let us also that are on the other side, Let us call it out when we are affected by someone. When someone offends us, let us fully commit to addressing it, and not allowing it to fester and create an even more broken place, causing our own stumbling block. Let’s work to forgive, to create new boundaries, and to see God past the mistakes of people. We are not perfect and He charges us with the responsibility to get things right with each other.
Much love, until Next Week!