We are in a journey to discover each use of the phrase "I tell you the truth…” used by Jesus in His teaching. There is an eternal truth in today’s passage which Jesus knew would be hard for us to grasp. His words prepared us for a life practice of accountability through grace:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)
I find it highly intriguing that the Lord presented this eternal truth within the context of correcting a fellow Believer. It is not an easy subject to approach, and Jesus knew we would find difficulty in following through with His prescription for restored living and healed relationships. Jesus articulated a four step process, each of which could work without going to the next step:
Approach a Sister or Brother in Christ who is having difficulty overcoming a sin. Seek to bring this precious soul back to a healthy spiritual status through a caring confrontation.
Should the person reject the previous attempt at restoration, then one or two other Believers committed to the spiritual health of the individual are to join with the first one who sought to intervene in the erring action and approach the erring soul, as an attempt in guarding the spiritual unity of the fellowship of faith.
If the previous effort proves unfruitful, those who sought to intervene in the previous effort are to approach the church or faith fellowship on the matter: explaining the previous attempts made to reach the one whose conscience has been hardened by sin. The church leadership should then approach the Believer who has strayed from God’s righteous path of living (whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, and lovely – as found in Philippians 4:6-9), and seek to redirect the erring life to a good path for living.
After all attempts to re-establish an accountable relationship with the Believer have proved unsuccessful, then the church is to treat the individual as a “tax collector or non-believer”. How does the church treat non-believers?
Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, members of God’s faith family are directed to love others: love one’s wife and children (Ephesians 5:25, 33; Proverbs 13:24 Ephesians 6:4); love one’s neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:10); love your enemies (Luke 6:35); love each other in the church (John 13:35; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:7); love the foreigner among you (Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:19; Matthew 25:35).
We are to understand the dynamic of that love, described by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Co. 13:4-8, NIV)
Loving those who have offended you is not easy, especially while the wound is still fresh. I have a difficult time with loving others who have intentionally offended me without a care as to how it reflects upon their children, their church, and their community. I do manage to overcome it over time, though I have not found a shortcut to healing – except to release it into God’s hands and forgive the offender.
So, just what is being bound? What is the eternal truth Jesus is revealing to us? Perhaps, we are binding divisiveness within the church. One of the greatest hindrances in reaching the neighbors of a church is the church’s reputation of their treatment of its pastors and members, infighting, and lack of care for their surrounding community and those in need. Churches that waste time and resources on divisive issues lose sight of the Great Commission and get distracted from the big picture. These churches lose their credibility to their neighborhood and to God. God will use those churches that are sold-out to His mission and with a passion to connecting hearts to the heart of God through Jesus Christ.
Another possibility of what could be bound is the bitterness in the heart of the one offended. We are not only praying against the dark forces of evil in others, we are also praying against those same imps of darkness seeking to disqualify our own witness through compromise, hatred, lies and other wickedness.
What, then, is being loosed? Perhaps churches with a long history of infighting and division experience a loosening of the bondage described above, and experience a renewed common purpose in fulfilling the Great Commission. Love is being loosed through the congregation to: exercise forgiveness between offended parties; experience mutual acceptance; expand ministries through empowering church members to minister through their strengths; extend the hand of fellowship to the surrounding community; express the gospel of Christ in creative, intentional ways; and expand the ministries offered to launch the faith fellowship in active missional objectives.
It is no accident this eternal truth is found in the middle of this passage. Jesus is providing a prescription for unhealthy churches to get back on a healthy track… binding and loosening. When we are freed from the things preventing us from healthy community, God actually works on behalf of those who really do dwell in unity: agreeing on their ministry and purpose (Read v’s 19-20).
This wonderful joy of this passage is found in the knowledge that one day satan and his imps of darkness will be bound and thrown into hell, never again to frustrate or impede God’s people. THAT IS THE FULL MEASURE OF THIS ETERNAL TRUTH! HALLELUJAH!
Have a blessed day...