In 2010, a tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, killing more than four hundred people. But the deaths could have been prevented or minimized had the tsunami warning system been working properly. The tsunami detection networks (buoys) had become detached and drifted away.
Jesus said His disciples had a responsibility to warn fellow disciples of things that could harm them spiritually—including unrepentant sin. He outlined a process in which a believer who’s been sinned against by another can humbly, privately, and prayerfully “point out” the sin to the offending believer (Matthew 18:15). If the person repents, then the conflict can be resolved and relationship restored. If the believer refuses to repent, then “one or two others” can help resolve the conflict (v. 16). If the sinning person still doesn’t repent, then the issue is to be brought before “the church” (v. 17). If the offender still won’t repent, the individual is to be removed from assembly fellowship, but he or she can certainly still be prayed for and shown Christ’s love.
As believers in Jesus, let’s pray for the wisdom and courage we need to care enough to lovingly warn one another of the dangers of unrepentant sin and of the joys of restoration to our heavenly Father and other believers. Jesus will be “there . . . with [us]” as we do (v. 20).