Lectionary Year A
September 8, 2002
Matthew 18:15-20

Step II: Disposition


This text presents guidelines for one facing someone who offends him. It depicts a step by step hypothetical eventuality. It covers enough bases to instruct one in the proper approach to an offender. It gives us a right civil method and/or system with various check points as we use it to resolve conflicts, to correct misbehavior and/or to make more peace between wronged and the one(s) wronging. Then, it presents 2 or 3 traditional sayings Jesus might have used in this context and/or in others.


I have to wonder just how many such offenses among church members could have happened as early as this record was written, as early as Jesus is said to have spoken these instructions. Or, as far as we know, does Jesus ever use the word, "church" or "community" elsewhere than in chapters 16 and 18 of this Gospel? Certainly we have to ask just how prepared could the first century congregation be to deal with such individual conflicts/offenses. Then, too, does verse 18 interrupt the flow of the topic the other verses more or less address? And, does verse 20 bring good news, even and, perhaps, especially to the offending one(s)?

Most of my questions are historical in nature. They have to do with the timing of Jesus' use of the community as an audience for dealing with disputes among members of the church and the community's development in so doing adequately. The pericope begins with a hypothesis and sets out steps for dealing with the situation hypothesized. Verses 15-17 set out an appropriate method of dealing with the trouble. Verse 18 seems to change the subject drastically. If it refers to the subject addressed in the preceding verses, it takes some philosophical gear shifting to fit it in. Since the community has a likely role in the appropriate schedule of dealing with trouble, verses 19ff might refer to the value of the community.

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