September 19-21, 2020
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Matthew 18:15-20 (EHV)
“WHEN YOU CARE ENOUGH TO SEND THE VERY BEST…”
1. You send yourself.
2. You seek salvation.
3. You count on Christ.
Matthew 18:15-20 (EHV) “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his sin just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And, if he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as an unbeliever or a tax collector. 18Amen I tell you: Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Amen I tell you again: If two of you on earth agree to ask for anything, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. 20In fact where two or three have gathered together in my name, there I am among them.”
It’s a slogan that always kind of bothered me. It felt manipulative. Hallmark Greeting Cards. “When you care enough to send the very best.” I get it. I have to buy your card for your newly made up holiday or I don’t care enough. Maybe another reason I didn’t like it is because it makes me come to grip with the fact that sometimes I don’t care enough. Jesus’s words to us today serve the same way. They kind of slap us in the face by pointing out we don’t care enough about each other. Now wait a minute! We do care. When someone is sick or having surgeries we pray for them. We do send cards. Pre pandemic meals were made to help out people in need. How often didn’t the freewill offering box go out to support this cause or that? We help family in need. We help the kids! What do you mean we don’t care? Well, it’s true we are often good about caring for each other’s physical needs. But today Jesus is talking about spiritual needs. Now wait a minute! Again we take umbrage. Look at this church and school and its ministry all designed to attract people to Christ as Savior and keep them with Christ as Savior. We just built an expansion to serve God better. All very good. Good examples of a congregation caring. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about personally caring for the spiritual welfare of one another. These words of Jesus in Matthew 18 are often cited as the basis for what is called Church Discipline but if you look, Jesus is not talking to the church but to you and in the Greek it is a singular you. It’s personal.
This part of Jesus’ teaching does not exist in a vacuum. Do you remember last week’s Gospel lesson from Matthew where Peter didn’t want Jesus to go to Jerusalem to suffer and pay for sin? This is what Jesus said to him. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a snare to me because you are not thinking the things of God, but the things of men.” Peter cared more for Jesus’ physical well being than everyone else’s spiritual need. Then Jesus said, “After all, what will it benefit a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul?” A reminder that all the physical care in the world is worthless if you go to Hell. In the first part of Matthew 18 Jesus said it is better to pluck out your eye or cut of your hand if your eye or hand would lead you to Hell. It’s the same message. It’s not that physical needs are unimportant but that your spiritual need which determines whether you spend eternity in heaven or hell is more important than physical needs which only last for earthly life. And right before today’s teaching Jesus told the parable of the Lost Sheep. A man had 100 sheep and lost 1 so he leaves the 99 to fend for themselves and goes after the lost one . That makes no sense. But Jesus says it does. Caring for a fellow believer’s spiritual needs is personal.
Listen again to our Lord Jesus. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his sin just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother.” Your brother. Jesus is talking about a fellow believer. Despite how we sometimes feel or some Christian churches have acted it has never been our responsibility to force unbelievers to live like we do. Your brother. You have a personal relationship with this person. That’s good. Who listens to a cold call on the phone? Who even answers the phone if you don’t know who it is and want to talk to them? “Sins against you.” Jesus is not telling us to call each other out for every sin we commit. If that were so we would never get anything else done in this world. We are all sinning all the time! Remember the context. Lost. Headed for hell. He’s talking about when you know your fellow believer you have a personal relationship with is, as far as you can tell, now heading for hell through a refusal to repent or worse, neglecting to use Word and Sacrament to feed their faith. Who speaks? Who goes? You. It is singular. You. The one who has the personal relationship. When you care enough to send the very best you send yourself! You don’t talk with everyone else about your brother. You, the best, speak with them one on one.
Why? When you care enough to send the very best you seek salvation. We’ve all been there. Someone in some way brings up the fact that what you are doing is wrong. First reaction? Defend. Excuse. Explain. First reaction is hardly ever repentance. Especially if there are other people around. When we care about each other spiritually we care that we will be together in heaven. The goal is a living faith in Jesus. The reason you point out sin is not to stop sin for another sin always takes it place. The reason you do is you fear their faith in Jesus is lost or may be lost. You seek salvation so you go by yourself. If that does not work at some future date you go with some other trusted Christians. If that does not work you tell your church leaders, pastors or elders, so they too can care and go, but only after you have gone. Why? If he listens you have regained your brother. No reputations need to be damaged. You are seeking salvation, not punishment. You are seeking their salvation not their embarrassment. You are not looking first and foremost for actions to change but for a heart to change. You are seeking salvation!
So simple. So plain. But so hard for us to do. What is it that holds us back from, in a loving way, caring about each other’s spiritual welfare? Sometimes it’s wrong motive. All we really want is them to stop sinning because their sinning offends us more that the fact that they are heading for hell. Often we feel it’s none of my business. Sometimes it is fear of rejection. Sometimes it is fear that it will make matters worse or blow up the family. Sometimes it is because we are painfully aware of our own sins so how would I dare to talk to someone else about theirs? The answer to all these fears and questions is the same. Count on Christ. Count on Christ who made spiritual care our business when he spoke in the word and said “you” singular. It is His will. Count on Christ who gives you authority to care even though you are a sinner yourself when He said “Amen I tell you: Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Count on Christ for what will happen because He told you, “Amen I tell you again: If two of you on earth agree to ask for anything, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. 20In fact where two or three have gathered together in my name, there I am among them.” You never go alone. You go for Christ and with Christ whose first and foremost concern is the salvation of souls.
Count on Christ to help you care. This truly caring for each other’s spiritual welfare is not an easy matter. People are messy. Relationships are messy. Words don’t always come out right. While Jesus gives us principles on how to show our care He doesn’t give us a textbook. He doesn’t tell us how long we wait for a response or how many times to keep trying. What He does give us is Himself. Jesus cared enough to send the very best. He sought our salvation and He won it by taking the punishment we deserve. Heaven is our home. Because of Jesus your place in heaven does not depend on how well or poorly you care for your brother’s spiritual need. Jesus’ love for you is boundless. Jesus cares for you and for those who are lost. As we continue to walk with Christ He will help us to care enough to send the very best. Amen.