How to approach your brother
The sermon for this topic can be heard here.
How do you deal with Peter when he has a problem? Not so much that HE has the problem but rather you have a problem with him? This is a question that we often wrestle with and the answer is a simply one but not always easy to do.
What is the purpose of approaching your brother?
When you wish to talk to a brother about a sin that he has committed, it helps to know the purpose for going to him in the first place…and the motive with which you do it.
The motive is LOVE. Everything a Christian does should be done out of love.
1Ti 1:5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Love is the action we take for another person that is in their best interest. It is not always free from emotion but it certainly can be. Feedings at 2a.m. are not done because the mother enjoys getting up at that hour but rather because it is need of the child. This is love. We may not enjoy talking to Brother Peter but if it is in his best interest, we will do so.
The purpose, however, is restoration. When Brother Peter sins against us, there is a break in the relationship. The purpose, therefore, is to restore that relationship. Jesus said in Matthew 18:15 that if your brother listens to you when you go to him, “you have gained your brother.”
Before you go, you need to ask two questions.
The first question is “Is his offense a sin?” Often times, we may discover that what we were offended by was NOT actually a sin. It may have been a personality quirk, it may have been a choice we wouldn’t have made, it may have been many things but it was NOT a sin. He didn’t lie, he didn’t steal, he didn’t blaspheme and so there is no need to talk to him about the “sin”.
The landowner of Matthew 20 agreed to pay a certain wage and when he gave the same wage to others who did not work as long as the first group, that first group took offense.
Mat 20:13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
There was no sin committed.
A second question you should ask is “Am I guilty of this sin?” Not, “Have I ever committed it?” but, rather, “Am I committing it now?” Sometimes the reason why we are so easily able to see sin in others is because we are familiar with it in our own lives–though we generally turn a blind eye to it.
Mat 7:3-5 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? (5) You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
If you are also guilty of doing what you plan to confront the brother about, it would be better if you did not until you can correct your own situation.
So when you draw the conclusion the conclusion that YES, you will go to him in love and YES you are not guilty of this sin yourself, then you are ready to apply Mt 18. The steps are simple but the process has some requirements too. It is not just that you confront a brother, get witnesses, take it to the church and then disfellowship him. Let’s take a look.
Applying Matthew 18 when Nathaniel has a problem with Peter
Nathaniel believes that Peter has sinned against him. So applying Matthew 18 to the situation he is first to go to Peter in private. Privacy allows for Peter to listen without getting AS defensive as he would if Nathaniel just called him out in public. (For public sins, a public calling out may be necessary as Paul did to Peter in Galatians 2).
Nathaniel is also to tell Peter what the sin is: “Go and show him his fault.” Nathaniel needs to say Peter you sinned by lying or stealing my pet rock or doing “this” or “that”. This is not a time to talk to Peter about personality differences or vacations that Nathaniel envies Peter taking. Those things are not sins and if the only problem Nathaniel has with Peter is over ‘opinions’ then Nathaniel needs to let it go.
Of course, if Peter does not listen to the pleading of Nathaniel to repent of a sin and restore the relationship then Nathaniel is to take one or two other people with him and try again. These others will with Nathaniel become the two or three witnesses for taking it to the church if Peter will not listen to them. Of course, it is possible that these two people will tell Nathaniel that Peter did NOT sin and Nathaniel will once again need to drop it and forgive/let go of the issue.
Finally, you take it to the church and if Peter does not listen to them then the congregation will need to disfellowship him. That should be a sad day.
In the next post though we will write about a situation that is all to common. Instead of going to Peter, Nathaniel goes to Andrew. Now how that plays out from this view of Matthew 18 is something we all find ourselves in from time to time.
Question: If you were Andrew–what would you do when Nathaniel came to you?.