bible blog 1201

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


President Zuma's Personal Pad

President Zuma’s Personal Pad

Matthew 18:10-20

New English Translation (NET)

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10 “See that you do not disdain one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 12 What do you think? If someone owns a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go look for the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that one of these little ones be lost.

Restoring Christian Relationships

15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.

18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven. 19 Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”

The little ones are first of all the disciples of Jesus and also the powerless of the world who look for God’s kingdom. The term “little ones” not only designates their vulnerability but also their place in God’s family: they are his children. God is infinitely concerned for their welfare, and like any good shepherd will leave the rest of the flock to search for one that’s lost. This gives great dignity to people whom the world despises or ignores. They are those whom God seeks out.parable

But being a child of God is not all jam; it involves family obligations. If you do something wrong, your brother or sister will hold you to account; and if you argue the case, they will treat as a community matter and involve others. If you are still obdurate they may decide to expel you, for a while, from the community itself. You only have the right to call yourself a child of God if you are prepared to act like one.

This status as God’s children involves such terrible responsibility. Just as God has entrusted the exercise of his rule to his son Jesus, so Jesus shares it with all who belong to him. Those who meet in Jesus’ name or character, can decide matters with his authority. This may have reflected the practice in Matthew’s Christian community. With very sincere people and very sparing use, such authority may have worked well. But one can see that it could be misused. Perhaps some checks on the community’s authority might be valuable. But none of these checks should remove the primary recognition of all believers as equal children of God. It seems to me that most existing church hierarchies do in fact remove this recognition; and that has happened because the sub-Christian assumptions of ruling elites have infiltrated the Christian Church. Jesus has promised his presence whenever members of the community “gather in his name,” that is,  when they meet with authority from the community to take a decision.

Matthew’s Jesus says that God endorses the decisions of his community on earth. But which decisions? The decisions of British Churches to recognise the equality of homosexual people or the decision of the Ugandan Churches to demonise them? The decisions of some Anglicans to welcome women bishops or the decision of others to prefer men (but NOT sexually for goodness sake!).I’m joking a little, yes, but I do find this teaching difficult.  I can see that God doesn’t interfere; he lets his earthly children get on with it. I can see that these children are his only witnesses to the world and that God has no plan B that circumvents his church. But I cannot see how God can endorse the often wrong-headed and sometimes wicked, decisions of his churches. If the church is as Martin Luther considered “always needing to be reformed”, how can God adopt its loopy decisions in heaven?

Readers may like to get back to me on this issue.

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