There are many verses in the bible that we like to quote A LOT.
Some, not all, are taken very much out of context. I don't think we do this intentionally, but it happens because we read a sentence that we like and roll with it.
If you were about to break up with someone, and sent them a two line text (ps. It is never cool to break up with someone over text. Its just not). The text you wrote was; “I think you are a really great person. But I think we need to be just friends.”
If the person you sent that to only read the first line, they would think all is well! That you want to keep seeing them and it is not until they write you back with “I think you are great too! Want to grab dinner?” That you have to have that awkward conversation that explains they should have read the rest of the message!
I think clarity is essential.
As we read the scriptures, we need to take time to really read them.
Who is talking?
Who are they talking to?
What is the point of this passage?
Is there a broader context that this is speaking to?
So when someone says, “We are having church because its the three of us right? The bible says where two or three gather, he is with us!” Or “It says in the bible that if we all agree, then God will grant us what we agree on!”
So. Yeah. This is not what that passage is about.
I mean, yes. In one sense, God is with a few people who come together to pray or to talk about him. But he was always there. He is everywhere. That is the beautiful thing about God. He is literally everywhere. But this passage is often used to justify people gathering out of spite or because they can’t get along with people in their church, so they gather almost out of rebellion.
So what is this passage saying?
Often, when we read a passage, we should read before and after it to get a better understanding of the context.
In this passage (Matthew 18), the part before verse 20 is about forgiveness and reconciliation.
But let’s read this part:
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid (bind) on earth will be forbidden (bound) in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
What is happening there?
What is this passage about to you?
Just want to add her as well, that first part of the passage says, if you brother (sister) hurts you, go to them. That is ‘two’ people. If they do not listen, grab someone they will listen to. This is three. Two or three. Working towards forgiveness and reconciliation. 2 or 3 loving someone enough to fix the issues between them and doing the hard work of loving each other.
Read what it says right after this passage in verses 21 - 35! It is a very powerful statement about how much God values us to forgive, to work it out. It seems forgiveness is high priority to God. In fact, it seems that forgiveness (lack of forgiveness) is directly influencing our hearts, mind and souls.
Jesus says earlier, “If you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters, that is what God will do to you (Matthew 6:15)”
I think for many of us, we have unforgiveness for certain people. In fact, I think we know the people we don’t want to forgive. We think that they will not see the wrong they did. We think that they are the worst people because they hurt us. I get that.
But here is the thing, how can we ask God to wipe away our mistakes, our stuff that we did to him and others and yet think its ok to not to that to others?
And look, forgiveness does not need two parties. It is personal to forgive someone. But God it seems is looking for us to do what he does; try to reconcile where possible. Sometimes it is not possible (as the passage alludes to). But we try. We push through the awkwardness to explain to the ones who have hurt us or who we have hurt and forgive, reconcile and work it out. Why? Because we want God to do that for us.
Sorry to be the one to break the news to you, but living life with God is not easy; it is just better.
Do you feel like you can’t forgive someone? Why is it so hard?
Looking forward to continuing this conversation…
the story continues…