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Gospel of Matthew 18: 12-20 (NIV)
The Parable of the Wandering Sheep
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, 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 “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
The two headings have been added editorially. They have the effect of separating verses 12-14 from the verses that follow however there is a significant link between the parable of the wandering sheep and Jesus’ instructions regarding a sinning member of the church.
Jesus does not want any of his flock, the people of God, to become lost, isolated or separated from his body, the church. He has given us a means by which we are to try to win over or win back somebody who has stumbled in his or her Christian walk. First, we are to speak amicably, one-on-one. If the one who has stumbled does not listen, we address the issue in the presence of one or two witnesses. These could, perhaps, perform a conciliatory role. If the one who has stumbled still will not listen, we then involve the whole assembly in trying to resolve the matter. I read this not as a way of intimidating or humiliating the offending member but to make it clear to the one who has stumbled that what has happened is outside God’s intention for his body, the church.
These measures represent the sheep-owner who has deliberately and at personal inconvenience gone to find the one sheep that wandered from the flock. God wants us to be the people who pursue the wandering sheep. He wants us to exhaust all reasonable means to locate the wanderer and to bring him or her back into the fold.
The Apostle Paul wrote about those who are in Christ and are thereby new creations. “All this is from God,” he continued, “who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5: 18). Seek to bring reconciliation between those who stumble and God and then reconcile them with others of the church. Why? For “your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”