If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one of two others along with you… If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18: 15-17)
For years today’s scripture confused me because it seemed like Jesus was saying that the church could shun people if need be. Although I understand that the church needs some discipline and accountability, it was hard to see Jesus allowing us to shun anyone.
Over the years, I’ve listened to many people who had been shunned from their former church. These were not bad people. They had made a mistake. Their lives had fallen apart. Their opinions may have differed from the majority. They may have acted out during a season of loneliness or pain.
Several years ago, I came across Eugene Peterson’s translation of today’s passage: “If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer God’s forgiving love again.” (The Message)
This translation sounded more like Jesus. This means that when Christians use today’s scripture to shun someone, they could be working against Jesus. He doesn’t want us to shun someone who doesn’t agree with our appeals for change or repentance. Instead, He wants us to start from scratch and redouble our efforts.
Jesus didn’t shun anyone—not Gentiles, tax collectors, lepers, or prostitutes.
Instead, His mission was for all: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” (John 3: 16).
God so loved the world and everyone in it. Love isn’t about shunning. Shunning isn’t about love.
As the disciples of Jesus, I encourage us to resist and reject shunning any child of God. Did Jesus shun sinners? No. He shunned sin, but not sinners. Instead, He came for them. We who claim Jesus must follow His example. No shunning. No outcasts. No exceptions from His grace or love.
- Have you ever been shunned? If so, what did that feel like?
- Have you ever shunned yourself? If so, why would you judge yourself more harshly than Jesus does?
- Have you ever shunned anyone else? If so, how come?