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Application of Matthew 18 to Public Sin

When it comes to Matthew 18:15ff, most Christians just cannot seem to find the balance. On the one hand, when it suits their purposes, the principles and procedures of Matthew 18 are largely ignored in the average American church, even Reformed ones. To go privately to a brother when one is offended, or when one believes the brother to be in sin, is personally threatening and uncomfortable. Hence, the most common response is to gossip behind the person's back, conduct "prayer" sessions for the offender, or even to ask the pastor or elders to confront the person. But rarely will the average person actually go to the person in private and deal with the issue.

On the other hand, when certain sins ARE confronted in public, almost always the first cry will be "Was Matthew 18 followed?" I have witnessed this personally for years at Presbytery. No matter how grievous the sin, or how public the matter; presbyters will still insist that the court can take no action unless Matthew 18 was first followed. Sadly, these same men themselves will often not go privately to someone to resolve differences, speak the truth in love or deal with an offense. It seems the real, underlying motivation is not to have to deal with "messy" situations, either personally or corporately. The end result is that often Biblical justice is subverted, the truth obscured, and unwitting people are led astray because the mechanism that God has given for dealing with sins, offenses and problems is just not understood or followed.