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

Contemporary Address


The pastor at the church where this sermon goes tells me the Session has recently been meeting longer than the usual hour and a half because they have had to deal with a local controversy. The Elder who habitually brings up items related to it has recently resigned from the Session. The sermon need not get too specific relative to this local problem. Yet, it could shed some light on how most responsibly Jesus calls us to deal with parties in the problem arena. The congregation is in a small town. Around a hundred people attend worship on Sundays and they appear to be more highly educated than the average folk. The leadership is of high caliber and they are conscientiously sensitive practitioners. The people are accustomed to biblically centered preaching.


One hopes to encourage people to deal responsively and civilly with those who offend them. The congregation's role in this system could bring a vote of confidence in the leaders who might be inspired to set the example.


"If/When Someone Offends You"


Jesus knew what He was talking about. Many offended Him. He suggests a sensible and responsible way to approach those who offend. It might work for us, too.

I. Go To Them

It's "Off of Square One" time. Sometimes we have to be the initiators of dealing with differences. People differ. That's God's plan. God makes and sustains all people.

The goal we have in mind as we go = to bring peaceful, harmonious and productive relationships their chance to flourish rather than to go into hibernation.

II. If the Offender Remains Unmoved By Your Approach

Need help? Take a partner. Two heads are better than one. So are 2 hearts and 2 wills wanting the same ends. Teamwork helps. Local press surely mentions the value of teamwork, e.g., local high school fall sports gearing up this time of year.

Need more help? Bring the matter to the Church Council. Their prayerful support and awareness that we are eager to solve problems rather than to let them fester will help. Inasmuch as Jesus intends for the community of believers to get involved in dealing with offences and offenders, we can expand our horizons to include local public servants and even national leaders, too.

III. Rely On The Witnessability of the Congregation

Quote the denomination's constitution, regarding lay and clergy responsibility in dealing with conflict. Jesus and the historical development of the denomination's traditions and polity work together to bring about positive ends. They might be "survival tactics", too.

God is always with us and available to us to answer our questions and to grant our requests.


Action for good ends with good assistance and with the church glorifies God and uplifts people and keeps them/us on better footing with each other and with others, as well.

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