When truth is not spoken in love, it often ceases to be truth.
The success or failure of the very first disciples of Jesus hinged on whether or not they were able to grasp and implement the heart message. That same criteria holds true for His disciples today.
It’s important to recognize that some of the most difficult beliefs to recognize as needing to be examined are those accepted as having come from teachings rooted in the Word of God, and Jesus addresses one of those sacred, unexamined areas in Matthew 18.
It has been my experience that this chapter is usually dealt with like so many other scriptures- out of context; resulting in conflicting concepts that do not produce a seamless flow of Kingdom principles.
The disciples have asked a question in verse 1. “Who is thegreatest in the kingdom?”
The answer to that question takes up the entire chapter and Jesus uses a classic Hebrew teaching technique—compare and contrast– to address the question.
The introduction to the Lord’s answer is found in verses 2-11.
In verses 12-14 Jesus illustrates His reasoning and validates His answer.
And then we are given the contrast.
Verse 15 begins with a tiny, two letter, word informing us that what we are about to read is in complete opposition from what we just finished reading.
Grammatically speaking, it is a conjunction of antithesis. Because that conjunction of antithesis has not been translated, this next chapter has, for centuries, been used as a “How to handle conflict guide” used in justifying the removal of offensive people.
However, when this portion of scripture is read in context, it is easy to see that Jesus was teaching His disciples how their current methods of handling offenders is in complete opposition to the ways of nature and the ways of The Father’s Kingdom.
Lost sheep are sought after so they can be protected, not turned out and vilified until they can be shamed into admitting that they, or their actions, are offensive to their accusers. It seems the church has really missed the boat on this one, time and time again.
The very purpose of verses 15-20 is to show how the disciple’s standard way of handling situations (legal as they may have been) was in direct conflict and contrast to the ways of The Kingdom.
Jesus reminds them; again, of the authority man has to release people from the guilt of their sins. He says it twice. Why? Because the spiritual law of love governing God’s instructions are higher than the letter of the law they were accustomed to observing.
Verses 21-35 we see Peter looking for clarification. Just how far is this love/forgiveness thing to be taken? And again, thanks to Peter, we are treated to another fabulous parable that illustrates the mind of Christ and the ways of the Kingdom.
This parable teaches us that to hold offenses against others when we have been released from and forgiven of every sin committed at our hand, results in a life returning to a place bound by torment. Why is that? Because a heart that continues to hold a belief that demands recompense and punishment, even after it has been blessed by forgiveness and received mercy has clearly decided to choose the kingdom of the world over the
. kingdom of God
There are two kingdoms; each operating under different laws: the kingdom of the world, which demands blood, sweat, sacrifice and results in death.; and the kingdom of God which requires its subjects to walk in the freedom that comes from being released from the prison our sins created.
Whichever kingdom your heart belongs to is the kingdom your life represents. The Lord warns us that you cannot live by the laws of both. Again, it is a matter of the heart, and the heart-owner is the only one authorized to make the necessary changes to their heart’s holdings.