There is great responsibility to being a follower of Jesus Christ – the responsibility of binding
In one of the most evocative verses on what it means to be church, Jesus tells his followers that when even a very few – as few as two or three – are gathered in his name, there he is among us.
Jesus has just been speaking of gathering in the cause of restoration where there has been sin and now he speaks of being there with ‘them’ – even with the one doing the breaking . . . as in my body broken – for you . . .
Now we are come full circle to the beginning – at the start of Matthew 18, the disciples are quibbling about who will be the greatest in the coming kingdom of heaven.
Jesus replies that the change that must happen is to become as children and admonishes his followers not to put a stumbling block before another – and perhaps this has been his point all along – after all, Jesus is speaking to his disciples – to the ones he entrusts to carry his gospel message to all the world.
It’s a big job, being a disciple. It is crucial that they, that we, get it right. Jesus makes clear what it is not about:
It is not about getting the first prize blue ribbon in some sort of race and if they/we insist on thinking of it that way, they/we would do better to try for last place rather than first.
It is not about being recognized for one’s power and dignity of office – it’s more like being a little kid with nothing to offer.
It is not about setting up gates and entrance exams and tests and setting bars higher and higher to get in.
It is not about setting ourselves as the example unless we are prepared to be the perfect example. It is about pointing always and only to Jesus, who actually is – the perfect example.
It is not about valuing station, position, or wealth. It is about seeking the lost. Always.
Maybe Jesus was speaking about as well as to the weak ones standing right in front of him, full-blown sinners themselves. Maybe he was reminding them that their squabbles about who gets in first are just nonsense – harmful nonsense. Maybe he was telling them that they had to first work this out among themselves before they had anything of value to bring to the world.
Maybe he was reminding them that their journey – our journey – is one of humility, where they, where we, must always be prepared, no matter how old, how advanced, how knowledgeable in bible studies, how closely aligned to Jesus himself, they, we must always be more prepared to be corrected than to correct . . . to be chastised as to chastise . . . to be put right as to put right.
Maybe he was teaching them that correction is a gentle thing that takes great care of the one being offered the correction.
Maybe he was suggesting that when sin and sinners and sinning come up, the one in the room I must first be concerned with is myself.
Maybe he was suggesting that if a sinner be ejected, we’d better leave too.
Maybe he was suggesting that if a penalty needs to be paid, I should be willing to pay it for you, because we are family and brothers and sisters always take up for each other.
Maybe Jesus was suggesting that unity looks like family – sloppy, messy, mistake-making, feeling-hurting, wrestling-til-we-get-it-right family.
Maybe Jesus wants us to come to those who have done wrong as Christ comes to us – in humility rather than in judgment . . . in great desire for their good rather than for our right . . . in the willingness to take on the burden of their sins as our own that they might be reclaimed.