Someone said we should use the “Matthew 18 Principle.” What is this?
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 18: 15-35
The Matthew 18 Principle is a teaching of Jesus that instructs you how you should respond when another Christian says or does something that you believe is wrong against God, others or yourself when this is only known by you or a few others. This principle is found in Matthew 18; therefore, its name.
The Matthew 18 Principle teaches that you should not simply ignore the sin of a fellow Christian, but to try to encourage repentance and to seek resolution of the conflict the sinful words or actions evoked (1 Thess. 5:14-15; Rom.15:14). You are to do this prayerfully, humbly and privately; i.e. involving as few people as possible. The steps to take are outlined below. When proceeding, you need to be sure and not acting on mere hearsay. You must act and speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). You must pray much and do all with a humble spirit. You must stay focused on doing the best for the person who sinned; for his repentance and Christian walk.
What steps am I to follow, when using the Matthew 18 Principle? The following three:
Speak with the person alone. Pray and look for a fitting opportunity; for the right time and place. For example. maybe inviting the person out for “coffee” at a restaurant. In this way the person knows ahead or time that you would like to speak him about something. He is better prepared, as you did not spring your conversation as a surprise and the setting lends itself to conversation. Explain, humbly speaking the truth in love, what your understanding of the circumstances is and that your motive is to follow the Matthew 18 Principle. You want to speak privately with him to seek his best. Ask if your understanding is correct. It may be that it is not. It is possible that your perceptions and understandings are mistaken or that you are not aware of the full truth. The matter might be easily cleared away simply by your better understanding. If, however, your understanding is correct, the person may repent and decide not to speak or act in the sinful way anymore ( text). This would be wonderful and a clear answer to your prayer.
It may be, however, that the person does not repent and your speaking with him does not achieve the results you desired. The person states that he is going to continue in his own way and that this is none of your business. Then, with a humble spirit of genuine care, you should inform him and then proceed to step 2.
Speak with one or two others. Pray and choose person(s) to assist you very carefully. Ask one or two other Christians who you know are confidential, wise and one who the person would respect. Arrange a meeting between the three or four of you. Choose a date, time and location that would work for all. When meeting together, talk through the whole situation together and then ask the wise friend(s) for their advice. It is possible that the person involved will repent from his sin and change after meeting with the three of you. If not, however, then inform him and then proceed to step #3.
Speak with the Church elders. Pray and tell two or more of the person’s church elders (this could include his pastor as on of the elders) all that has happened and the results from the previous meetings. Then continue to pray and trust the matter in God’s hands, as you have followed the steps our Lord taught us in the Matthew 18 Principle.
Why would it be wrong to simply ignore the sinful behavior of a Christian friend? Why is a humble spirit so critical in the Matthew 18 Principle process? Why is genuine love for the person and his welfare so important? Why is prayer essential in this process?