This week’s lectionary text is Matthew 18:15-20, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
By far the best commentary on Matthew I have read is R.T. France’s in the NICNT series. Alongside this great time France has a smaller introduction to the first canonical gospel. When I read it I fell in love with Matthew’s gospel. One of the things I really appreciate about France is his subtle pastoral approach to the gospel. I am unaware of his clerical history but he writes like a scholarly pastor. For instance, his comment concerning the fourth discourse in Matthew (often referred to as the community/church discourse) he says the following,
“The portrait of the church which thus emerges is an attractive one. Status-consciousness and formally constituted authority have no place. The focus is on the relationship and mutual responsibility of all members of the community, each of whom matters, and yet all of whom must regard themselves only as ‘little ones’. The resultant pastoral concern and action is not the preserve of a select few, but is the responsibility of each individual disciple, and, where necessary, of the whole group together. The structure is informal, but the sense of community is intense. And overarching it all is the consciousness of the presence of Jesus and of the forgiveness and pastoral concern of ‘your Father in heaven’.” [R. T. France, Matthew: Evangelist 252.]
When did we allow this vision for the body of Christ to give way to what we have today? When did the church Jesus pastored give way to the church we would rather pastor as the primary model for how we do things? France is correct, the church envisioned by Matthew is far more Jesus shaped than many of the ones around us today. So, what are we going to do about it?