I was challenged by the verses dealing with relationships in the midst of disagreement. They are about how to help communication happen. It is a very good model for mediation actually. When we get to the end and there is no agreement Jesus say we are to treat them like an unbeliever or a tax collector.
15If one of my followers sins against you, go and point out what was wrong. But do it in private, just between the two of you. If that person listens, you have won back a follower. 16But if that one refuses to listen, take along one or two others. The Scriptures teach that every complaint must be proven true by two or more witnesses. 17If the follower refuses to listen to them, report the matter to the church. Anyone who refuses to listen to the church must be treated like an unbeliever or a tax collector.
I found myself looking at its context and seeing that the verses around it are about: a God who seeks out the lost in the parable of the lost sheep, and a God who expects us to model forgiveness in the parable of the unmerciful servant. I then asked myself what Jesus might have meant by: treated like an unbeliever or a tax collector.
Jesus reminds us again and again that he has come to seek and save the lost. He was often attacked by the religious people of his day for eating with sinners! There is a challenge in these verses not simply to cut off the other but to seek them out. To seek reconciliation with them. I acknowledge that their fellowship is impaired, or broken, but we are all created in the image of God.
In the Church of Ireland there is a debate raging that may lead to division as it has in other parts of the Anglican Communion. How we conduct ourselves will be important. It is not our church but the Lord's and we must seek to hear and listen to what each other is saying, and what God is saying. If we disagree we must see how Jesus would have us behave.
We must seek to be like the shepherd seeking the lost, and unlike the unmerciful servant and if we cannot come to a common mind, treat one another as an unbeliever or a tax collector.
See how these Christians love one another...