Daily Devotion for November 11, 2009
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Those in Distress
God, you are indeed King -- ruler of the Universe. Thank you for you goodness and the goodness of your creation.
Lord, there are those who mourn today. Shelter them and protect them from the storms of life. Hold them in the palm of your hand. Ease their pain. There are those who are alone, there are those who are anxious, there are those who are dying. God, you are giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve the sick, and give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, that they may be strengthened in their weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray all these things
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Gospel of Matthew, 18:15-17
If your brother sins against you
If your brother sins against you, tell him his fault in private, just between the two of you. If he hears you, you have gained a brother. But if he won't hear you out, take one or two others with you to talk to him, so that there are witnesses to what was said. If he will not hear them, discuss it with the church. And if he refuses to hear the church also, let him be like a Gentile or a publican to you.
Comment on the Scripture
Trying to follow this passage literally could be confusing and frustrating in today's world. Churches vary widely in size, structure, doctrine, personality, governance, and other ways. Few would allow personal grievances to be aired before the entire congregation, and few would be willing to allocate fault between members with a problem.
Still, this is a teaching from the mouth of Christ. One should follow it. But you don't need to engage in lengthy frustrating attempts to interpret it. Clearly, if you think a fellow Christian has sinned against you, you should talk it over with him. If members of your church are willing to sit with the two of you and listen to the problems, you should take advantage of it. Most churches will provide some sort of institutional counselling or mediation.
The last line, "let him be like a Gentile or publican to you", is difficult to interpret, since in modern Christianity both parties are likely to be Gentiles themselves (and possibly "publicans" as well). Apparently, you don't need to recognize such an unrepentent person as a fellow church member. It is doubly hard to make sense of this sentence, because Christ himself was criticized for eating with Gentiles, but possibly these were Gentiles interested in Christ's word and salvation. We know, certainly, that Gentiles joined the early church after Christ's resurrection, but we also know that Christ was capable of rejecting nonbelievers (both Hebrew and Gentile) rather harshly.
Of course, Christ always requires forgiveness of those who have sinned against us. Apparently, from today's scripture, forgiveness does not have to include being friends with the person you forgive or considering him a member of your church, once you have done your best to work things out. That's the best I can make of it.
(Note: Ironically, the person who would find it easiest to follow this passage is an Orthodox Jew! Orthodox Jewish congregations still have extensive religious courts. Although they apparently try to make their decisions binding in civil court (by urging or requiring parties to sign a binding arbitration agreement) -- something that Christ taught against -- the civil courts will not recognize arbitration in some cases, especially those involving probate of estates or child custody disputes. So the only penalty they can impose is to literally treat someone like a Gentile — declare that an offender, and possibly his or her children, are not Jews. )