by Mike Benson
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…” (Matthew 18:15).
Pay special attention to Matthew 18:15 again, “…Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Alone.
The NIV renders it, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you…”
“Just between the two of you…” Note that Jesus did not say, “Go and tell everybody in the congregation except the brother who has sinned against you…”
That is also sinful. If you have been sinned against, but you go to your peers and not to the one who sinned against you, you are actually guilty in the sight of heaven.
Jesus did not say, “Go tell your spouse, your adult children, your fellow deacons, the nice member sitting in the pew next to you, the church secretary, the Bible class teacher, and certainly not unbelieving Harry who lives next door.”
He said a) go b) to the offending brother c) alone. By yourself. In private. “Just between the two of you.”
Beloved, it is essential that you understand, appreciate, and practice this fundamental truth. If it is wrong for a brother to sin against you, and it is, that does not license you, in any way, to in turn sin against him by failing or refusing to go to him one-on-one.
At the very least that is cowardice; at the very worst that is rebellion towards Jesus Christ.
It is inconsistent to demand as per “thus saith the Lord” (cf. Colossians 3:17) that a person be baptized, that singing be the sole means of music in worship, and that we consume the Lord’s Supper only on Sunday, but then turn around and engage in undercover slander against someone who has injured you.
Human communications and relationships are complicated enough between brethren. Covertly telling third, fourth, and fifth parties about your brother’s sin against you only adds fuel to an already existing fire.
In fact, it says your brother may have sinned against you, but you have certainly sinned against him. And when the offending brother eventually learns that you’ve been talking about him in a derogatory fashion behind his back, it will be much, much more difficult for you to “gain your brother” (Matthew 18:15b) and be reconciled.
“Why must I go alone?” you ask. Actually, there are several Biblical reasons:
Because going alone is the most effective means of cleansing out the emotional wounds we receive (Matthew 15:18).
Because going alone shows that you want to protect (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7) your brother and that you sincerely desire to preserve the relationship (cf. Genesis 13:8).
Because going alone says that you seek that special peace which uniquely exists between those of like precious faith (James 3:13-18).
Because going alone opens you and the offending brother to the life-changing experience of giving and receiving forgiveness (Colossians 3:13).
Because going alone says to Jesus that your faith is not just about knowing doctrinal truth; it is about faithfully living doctrinal truth (James 1:21-23).
Obedience requires that you get doctrine right–stuff like baptism, singing, and the precise day for breaking bread. But obedience also requires that you get other doctrines right–including going to an offending brother.