How Did Jesus Treat Them?

Matthew 18:15-18

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.

But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

I once gave a retreat to a group of preachers. One of the activities I asked the group to do was to get into small groups, read an assigned scripture passage, and then look for what would be the challenge in that passage. One of the small groups was assigned this passage. After the exercise was over, we took a break. One of the participants came up to me and said, “I think I hate you.” I asked her why, and she told me this story.

“My husband and I were very active in the Church. We were part of an intentional faith community for a number of years. Then he had an affair. First, I went to him to seek reconciliation, but he was unwilling to change the situation. So, I invited one of his closest friends to join me in confronting him about his behavior, hoping he would have a change of heart. When that didn’t work, I brought the whole situation to our intentional faith community. Nothing changed. So I gave up. We got divorced, and as far as I was concerned, he had condemned himself. He was no longer worthy of my care or concern, let alone my love and affection. I had treated him the way I imagined Jesus would want us to treat him. Then someone in the group pointed out that the author of this gospel had been a tax collector. He asked our group a simple question, ‘How did Jesus treat Gentiles and tax collectors.’

“Now, I’m being challenged to treat my ex-husband the way Jesus treat Gentiles and tax collector. He treated then with compassion and mercy.”

A few years later, she invited me to preach a parish mission at the parish where she ministered. She told me she had forgiven me, but more importantly she had forgiven her ex-husband. Then she told me that once she had forgiven him a burden had been lifted. She was no longer bitter, but could love again. First of all, she could love the man who had betrayed her, not in the same way she had before, but in a new way that did not always and only see him as the one who had betrayed and abandoned her for another woman. At the same time, she could love other people in a new way as well. Her heart was healed and once again open to loving other as Jesus was calling her to. She could begin once again to treat others as Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors.