Our society teaches us to tolerate just about anything. Not only are we to tolerate it, but we are to embrace it. This attitude has crept into our churches. In the genuine desire to show love and acceptance to all, we look the other way in the presence of sinful behavior.
Is that what Jesus meant by not judging? What do we think of parents who do that with their children? What kind of children do they usually turn out to be? We are supposed to love the sinner. We were all sinners saved by His blood and we still fight the battles. Church should be a place where the sinner is welcome, but it should never be a place where sin is condoned. That is going to make sinners uncomfortable at times. They may respond by repenting or they may run away. We must not be afraid to speak the truth.
When we look the other way in the presence of sin, we are not acting in love. It’s possible for our hearts to be in the right place, but our actions are out of step with our motivation. If you saw a child about to go into traffic, would you turn away because you don’t want to judge him for his choices? Sometimes our motives are not so pure. We don’t want to get involved. We don’t want to make trouble or put ourselves at risk. We’d never admit it, but our actions suggest we’d rather the child get run over than risk getting run over ourselves. We can’t claim to be loving unless we’re willing to do the tough things that love sometimes requires.
11 Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
12 If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work? (Prov 24:11-12 NASB)
One thing we should remember when we read our Bible is that the chapters and verses were added for convenience long after the original text was written. The chapter and verse breaks don’t always fall in the best places to help us understand what the text is saying. Matthew 18 is not one of those cases. I think it’s just right. I’m also not a big fan of the subheadings many translations add, especially when they stray into the realm of commentary. However I’m going to provide my own for this chapter, “To Protect and to Save.”
Jesus is telling us many things in this chapter, but we will focus on some main themes. Protect the weak and the innocent. Address sin with love. Strive always for redemption. Forgiveness is essential. I hope this will help us to understand why it is so important that we deal with sin in our lives and in our church body as well as the redemptive purpose that is ever present throughout God’s word.
When I set out to prepare this sermon, I planned a rather straightforward exhortation about how we need to renew our minds by focusing our thoughts on the things of God instead of the things of this world. I began with Romans 12:2, and it remains the key verse from which the topic was launched, but I began to see that I was going to take it completely out of its context. It’s important for us to realize when we read the Bible that it is not a collection of disjointed snippets that we can cut and paste together to fit our fancy. It’s a collection of historical accounts, poetry, prophecies, and letters; divinely assembled to give us the instructions we need to live as God intended. The book of Romans is one of my favorite books to pull from, but it is a single letter and really should be read from beginning to end. However, that can’t be accomplished in 30 minutes, so I tried to extract the sense of the part without violating the meaning of the whole. Let’s look at chapter 12 and maybe just a bit of 11 so we can see what the therefore is there for and see what Paul meant when he said that we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
What comes to your mind when you think about prayer? Depending on your tradition, it may be anything from an informal chat with God to a ritualized recitation. Does the Bible say anything about how we are to pray? What is prayer? Why do we pray? Can we expect God to answer or even to hear us? In Matthew 6:9-13 we find what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer. Did He mean for us to recite it as some traditions do? Did he mean it as an outline of how our prayers should be structured? Or, did He mean it to be an example of the kinds of things that should be in our prayers? Is it all inclusive?
The above is taken from the introduction that I wrote before delivering the sermon. When I put the notes together I decided to use the version that appears in Luke 11 with its surrounding text. It was good for me to hear it again today, so I pray that it will also bless you. It was delivered in December of 2011. I hope my edges have smoothed a little since then.