He does not say “accuse him” or “punish him” or “take him to court.” He says “correct him.” For he is possessed, as it were, by some stupor, and drunk in his anger and disgrace. The one who is healthy must go to the one who is sick. You must conduct your judgment of him privately. Make your cure easy to accept. For the words “correct him” mean nothing other than help him see his indiscretion. Tell him what you have suffered from him.
What then if he does not listen, if he stubbornly flares up? Call to your side someone else or even two others, so that two witnesses may corroborate all that’s said. For the more shameless and boldfaced he is, so much the more must you be earnest toward his cure, not toward satisfying your anger and hurt feelings. For when a physician sees the sickness unyielding, he does not stand aside or take it hard but then is all the more earnest. That then is what Christ orders us to do. You appeared too weak since you were alone, so become stronger with the help of others. Two are sufficient to reprove the wrongdoer. Do you see how he seeks the interest not of the aggrieved party alone but also that of the one who caused the grief? For the person injured may be the one who is more taken captive by passion. He becomes the one that is diseased and weak and infirm.
This effort may occur many times, as he attempts to lead him first alone and then with others. If he persists, then make the effort with the whole congregation. “Tell it,” he says, “to the church.” If he had sought the interest of the aggrieved alone, he would not have told him to approach the sick individual seventy-seven times. He would not have attempted so many times or brought so many treatments to the malady. He might have just let him be if he persisted uncorrected from the first meeting. But instead he shows us how to seek his cure once, twice, and many times: first alone, then with two, then with many more.1
If someone has done you injury and you have suffered, what should be done? You have heard the answer already in today’s Scripture: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”
If you fail to do so, you are worse than he is. He has done someone harm, and by doing harm he has stricken himself with a grievous wound. Will you then completely disregard your brother’s wound? Will you simply watch him stumble and fall down? Will you disregard his predicament? If so, you are worse in your silence than he in his abuse.
Therefore, when any one sins against us, let us take great care, but not merely for ourselves. For it is a glorious thing to forget injuries. Just set aside your own injury, but do not neglect your brother’s wound. Therefore “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone,” intent upon his amendment but sparing his sense of shame. For it might happen that through defensiveness he will begin to justify his sin, and so you will have inadvertently nudged him still closer toward the very behavior you desire to amend. Therefore “tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother,” because he might have been lost, had you not spoken with him.2
But “if he does not listen,” that is, if he chooses to justify his sin as if it were a just action, “take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Don’t consider him now in the number of your brothers. But not even so is his salvation to be neglected. For even the heathen, that is, the Gentiles and pagans, we do not consider in the number of our brothers, yet we constantly pray for their salvation.3
After stating that the one judged is viewed as a heathen and tax collector, something else is added which is well put: “Truly, I say to you”—clearly to those judging someone to be as a heathen and tax collector—“whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” For he who has three times admonished him and not been heard has justly bound him, and that man is then to be thought judged as a heathen and tax collector. Therefore when a man like this has been bound and condemned by someone, he remains bound insofar as none of those in heaven rescinds the judgment of the man by whom he was bound. So too the man who has once been warned and does things worthy of being won back is released through the warning of the one who wins him back. He is no longer bound by the bonds of his sins for which he was warned and bound; he will be judged by those in heaven as set free.4
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 60.1. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 76–77). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 82.7. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 77). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 82.7. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 78). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 13.31. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 78–79). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.