My very first job as a teacher was in a Christian school. Although I had gone to church all my life, it wasn’t my first inclination to deal with disagreements in a Biblical manner. So when one of the other teachers did something that I thought was inappropriate, belittling and insulting to me, I went to a good friend, just because I had to get it out of my system. She asked me, “Have you talked to him about it?” No, I hadn’t, because he is the one who ticked me off. She told me to follow the Matthew 18:15 principle. So, I went and looked the verse up, and then went and spoke with the other teacher. We resolved the issue, and all was well.
Yes, the guideline given in Matthew 18:15 is a good principle to follow to work out differences in your interpersonal relationships, but if you look at it in the context of the following verses, you will realize that Jesus is talking about more than just a misunderstanding between friends or colleagues. If you read all four steps outlined in Matthew 18:15-17, you will see that it must involve more serious issues. These steps need to be taken if a person’s actions will hinder the relationship between a believer and our Heavenly Father.
Earlier, in Matthew 18:10-14, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep, and He says that He is not willing for any of His sheep or His children to be lost. When we get to the next paragraph, He is still not willing for any of His children to be lost, so if one has done something that might lead to that result, it cannot be overlooked. But the process is to deal with it as quietly as possible. First, you go alone and quietly tell your brother (fellow Christian of either gender) what his fault is. Now, it is entirely possible that he won’t see things the same way you do. Perhaps you will be able to persuade him of what is right, and perhaps you won’t. If you can’t, you go and find one or two more people so that a matter may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15) These one or two other people need to be objective and upstanding themselves, and not just people you can convince to take your side in a matter. After all, this should not be a personal complaint, but a serious breach of God’s principles. The point of going through the steps is not only to convince the other of his wrong, but also to confirm that you were not wrong to approach him.
If these conversations aren’t enough, you go to the church. Keep in mind, that this passage in Scripture is not an excuse to air someone’s dirty laundry in front of the entire congregation. There are some issues that never need to be shared with the entire congregation and will only cause more hurt if they are. A board or committee of the church could be entrusted to make decisions on its behalf. Remember that along with striving to be holy, Jesus wants us to love one another. If you get to the point where your erring brother refuses to listen to the church, you must treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. In fact, he has chosen to live as a Gentile or a tax collector since he has disregarded the standards that God has set. However, you are not to treat him as the Pharisees treated the Gentiles and tax collectors. You are to treat him as Jesus would have. Start fresh, and continue to try to bring him back into the fold, for your Father in heaven is not willing for any to be lost.