A shallow faith is built upon a spirituality “between me and God.” A fuller faith understands that faith in isolation is not as strong as faith in community, messy as that may be.
Scripture - Matthew 18:15-20
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”
Unpack It! Remember in week one, when we said Matthew’s Gospel was written with Jewish Christians in mind? Here’s another example of that in action. The author understood that if Jewish Christians were going to live under the authority of Christ rather than the authority of the temple and its priests, they would need a new way of resolving conflict in their community. Considering his audience, this was a radically organic model of conflict resolution, but it is still applicable today!
Discussing the Text
Jesus lays out an orderly, focused way to resolve conflict in the community of faith. When have you seen conflict resolved poorly in your life? When have you seen conflict resolved in healthy ways?
Jesus says that if two or more of us agree about anything on earth, than God the Father will do it for us. What kinds of things is he talking about? If two of us agree that we need a million dollars, should we expect the check in the mail?
Jesus teaches about the faith community while discussing conflict resolution. If church is going to be another place where we find conflict in life, why is it important to be involved? Shouldn’t we avoid it if we’re trying to live a more peaceful life?
Questions for Deeper Faith
Being in community is great for extroverts, but what about those of us who are more introverted? Why is it important for us to be in community, too?
Do you think it is possible to have a life of faith built only on a personal relationship with God? Are there any limitations to a faith like that?
When people talk about not liking “organized religion,” usually that is born out of cynicism or damaging memories in their past from their life in church. But as we continue to participate in the life of the church, we will see things and experience things that could hurt us, too. How do we stay involved in the life of the church even when we know it will get messy at times?
Is it easy or difficult for you to be transparent in a small group setting? What makes it easier to be vulnerable?
When is the last time you had to hold someone accountable? When is the last time someone held you accountable?
What is our responsibility to one another as members of the same community of faith?
God of All Peoples, you bind us together when we might rather pull ourselves apart. Open our eyes to the beauty of a life lived in community. When we’d rather stay silent, help us to pick up the phone. When we’d rather stay home, help us to make our way to our faith community, either in worship, service, or fellowship. Most importantly, you help us to see your image in the people around us, and you encourage reconciliation where conflict or strife take root. This week, open us up to the strength of community, allow us to be vulnerable to those who care for us, and give us the strength to hold others accountable when we must. In the name of the one who loves us, firmly and completely, Jesus Christ, Amen.