Matthew 18:15-21

What to do when someone in the community is sinning?

Do we do nothing and look the other way?

Or do we immediately expel that person from the community?

Jesus proposes something different to us: Jesus says the first step is to speak directly but privately to the individual who has done the harm. If we truly want to settle a difference between someone, we need to do it face to face. If this fails in its purpose, then the second step is to bring another person or persons, someone who is wise and gracious rather than someone who is hot-tempered or judgmental. The goal is not so much to put the offender on trial, but to persuade the offender to see the wrong and to be reconciled. And if this fails, then we must still not give up, but seek the help of the Christian community.

In Mt 16:19, the power to forgive is given to Peter, now, the power is given to the community: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. Here we see the importance of reconciliation and the enormous responsibility of the community in dealing with its members. The community does not exclude anyone, but simply ratifies the exclusion that the person had already assumed publicly by leaving the common life of the community.

The exclusion does not mean that the person is abandoned to his or her fate. The person will not be separated from God. we still have the obligation to pray together to the Father. Jesus guarantees that the Father will listen. Jesus promises: “Where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them!”