I’ve always been curious about the way we use scripture. Matthew 18:19 comes to mind. Jesus is teaching about being reconciled to a brother. In 18:15 he lays out the complaint: “…if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Then Jesus prescribes a formula if the brother doesn’t receive you. “… take with you one or two more…” If that doesn’t work, then “tell it to the church.” If that STILL doesn’t work, treat him “like a heathen and a tax collector.” For all of my life, I’ve believed that to be not a good thing. To be treated like a heathen and tax collector doesn’t sound like it could be good at all. That is, unless you happen to believe that context matters. Jesus has just completed telling us why he came: “The Son of Man came to save that which was lost.” Then he follows that little piece of information with the story of leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one that is lost. Now in that context, it seems that being treated as a “heathen and tax collector” would be the equivalent of being the one lost sheep — the one that Jesus said was important! So, now what do we have? We have a relationship that is in danger of being lost, we have a man that is being treated as lost, and then Jesus says to take a couple of folks with you to rescue this lost lamb. And then comes the oft misused text, “…if two of you agree on earth concerning anything they ask it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” And not only that, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” That verse doesn’t have anything to do with a prayer meeting! Have you ever quoted it — you know, when only two people show up and you’re trying to convince yourself and your one other faithful prayer warrior that your prayers matter and that Jesus is there? Have you ever considered the implications of that way of thinking? If two of you don’t show up, if it’s just you by yourself, then Jesus isn’t there! Now we all know that isn’t true! Oh sure, it’s always more fun to pray when more people show up, and there really is something significant about corporate prayer. But to invoke this verse as the proof that Jesus is there just is — well — not right. There, I said it. When you see this verse in it’s context, you realize that Jesus is telling these brothers, “When you go to your wayward brother, go with the goal of winning him — not rejecting or shunning him. And if you will go in that spirit, that heart attitude; if you will go and ask your brother to “come home,” I guarantee that My Father in heaven will see to it that you get what you ask for! And remember this, when you go, remember that you are representing Me so don’t do or say anything that will mis-represent me. And further, you are taking My power when you go — you do not have to do this thing alone!”
One other little tip that this is about restoring a lost relationship and not about a prayer meeting: Peter immediately after this, asks about forgiveness. If this had been about rejecting a heathen and tax collector, Peter would not have asked about forgiveness. If this had been about prayer, Peter would have said, “Lord teach us to pray,” instead of “how often do we forgive?”Oh well — enough of that for now. I just love God’s Word, and I really want us to be very careful to use it the way He intended.Blessings! Acquired from Dr. Tom Mills’ blog…without permission but with full credit.