18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
I really didn’t want to separate this passage form the previous about solving conflict in the church, but it got a bit long. Today we are reading about why Jesus prescribes the process for resolving conflict and why His final statement involves treating the person as not part of the family. When we are unified as a church, we live in God’s presence. When we are united in His Spirit, we get to see His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. When we work together instead of against each other, we get to unleash the full power of His Kingdom in our lives! This is what He calls us to, but it will not happen if we are not unified. Think about what Paul wrote to the church at Philipi in the second chapter of his letter:
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
He encouraged them to be united with compassion, love, and humility. He uses Jesus as an example that regardless of what His “right” was as God incarnate, He knew that it was best for the church for Him to be humble and loving. This is how we should think of each other. This is what Jesus calls us to in the process of reconciliation to one another.
Whether you recognize it or not, you are in a war for your soul. The number one principle that is taught in basic training for any type of soldier isn’t how to run fast, how to shoot a rifle, or how to shine your boots. It’s all about teamwork. In my rant American Preacher where I talk about the lack of unity amongst the church, I mention how it is the one thing I miss the most about my time in the Marine Corps is the camaraderie and what they call Esprit de Corps. The spirit of unity. When we follow Jesus’ direction in resolving conflict in the church, we start to experience this. When we recognize the importance of treating those who call themselves Christians but don’t behave like Christians as outsiders, then we begin to see a unified team of individuals fighting the spiritual battle here on earth. You might be struggling with the implications of Matthew 18:15-17 and I understand, it is a hard pill to swallow! It might not even seem “Christian,” but there it is straight from the mouth of Christ Himself. But think of this:
In the military, there is an entry process but also a sustainment process. You have to follow the rules. If you do not abide by the prescribed ways of being a soldier (or marine, sailor, airman, etc.) then you are kicked out. To put it a different way that relates better to what I am saying, if you are in the Marine Corps but stop acting like a Marine even after much correction and discipline, you are kicked out. You are no longer considered a Marine because you are not acting like a Marine. It’s not about the uniform or title, it’s about how you behave day in and day out. Our lives as Christians is the same and it is exactly why Jesus prescribed the process we read yesterday. It isn’t to be a control freak or to give the church leadership authority to ban people from the church, it’s to keep a united front against our spiritual enemy. It’s to fulfill what we read today: to bind in heaven what we bind on earth, to fulfill God’s will amongst us, and to continually live in His presence. This is what we want, isn’t it? Well, then we have to do what He says is necessary to make it happen.