‘LAY BARE YOUR BROTHER’S SIN’—WHEN AND HOW?
14. (a) What steps did Jesus outline for handling cases of sin against a person, which cases are too serious to be overlooked? (b) What would it mean for one to be viewed “as a man of the nations and as a tax collector”?
14 Jesus gave counsel concerning sins that might be committed against a person and that are considered as too serious in nature to be overlooked. He said: “If your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
15. How might a minor personal offense beneficially be handled, but was this the type of offense that Jesus was here discussing?
15 Since the steps that Jesus set forth could lead to such a serious consequence, he was obviously not setting out a formula for the handling of every petty offense against an individual. Of course, many times it is the proper and wise and very helpful thing to go and talk to someone where personal difficulty exists because of some minor offense, doing this with the aim of healing any breach that seems to be developing. (Matt. 6:14, 15; Prov. 12:18) Many misunderstandings are cleared up in this way. But evidently this was not what Jesus was speaking of at this time. He referred, not to mere personal differences, but to offenses serious enough to merit one’s expulsion from the congregation.
16. Before initiating the procedure outlined at Matthew 18:15-17, what caution is in order?
16 Before ever you would initiate the procedure set out at Matthew 18:15-17, then, you should have definite proof that such a serious sin was indeed committed against you. Jesus did not say, ‘If you think your brother has sinned.’ You should consider the counsel at Proverbs 25:8-10 so that you do not start something that will only bring shame and humiliation upon you yourself. Even where the proof exists, you should not spread the matter abroad, gossiping about it, but should go to the offender privately and “lay bare his fault between you and him alone.”
17. What is meant in this scripture by ‘gaining’ one’s brother?
17 If your brother “listens,” accepting your reproof, then “you have gained your brother.” Does this refer simply to effecting a personal reconciliation? No, but as the rest of Jesus’ counsel shows, it must mean ‘gaining him’ in the sense of helping him to stay within the congregation, turning him back from a course that could lead to his being expelled therefrom, with accompanying loss of God’s favor and blessing. So the ‘gaining’ of your brother would be in the sense described at James 5:19, 20, Galatians 6:1 and Jude 22, 23. This, in fact, should be your principal aim and desire—not that of getting personal relief or satisfaction for some offense.
18. What offenses were not covered by the instructions here given by Jesus, and why not?
18 Where the sinner accepts reproof and seeks forgiveness, Jesus states, there is no need to carry the matter farther. This fact shows that, although serious, the offenses here discussed were limited in nature to such as could be settled between the individuals involved. This would not include such offenses as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, apostasy, idolatry and similar grave sins, for under the Law covenant then in force, these sins required more than forgiveness from an offended individual.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:19-21.
19. The sins here under consideration were of what nature, and what indicates this?
19 In view of this, and in view of the illustration that Jesus subsequently gave, as recorded at Matthew 18:21-35, the sins here considered evidently were sins such as those involving financial or property matters—failing to make proper payment for something, some action involving a measure of fraud—or perhaps damaging one’s reputation by actual slander, or similar sins. In these cases, if the offender recognized his wrong, expressed willingness to right it to the extent possible, and sought forgiveness, the matter could be settled by the offended one’s granting forgiveness.—Compare Matthew 5:25, 26; Luke 12:58.