Matthew 18 and “Christ at the Checkpoint”

Since my last blog, the UMJC joined with other international Messianic Jewish organizations to issue another statement on the controversial “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference. You can read it, and an article on the same topic by an Israeli colleague, under “Community News” at umjc.org.

For now I’ll just respond to one complaint raised by the conference sponsors when they received a copy of our first statement. Both statements are pretty critical, and the local coordinating committee of Christ at the Checkpoint took us to task for not going to them privately in accord with Matthew 18:15-20 “in order to resolve differences rather than send a public letter to appeal for dialogue through the internet.” I’ve heard this sort of appeal to Matthew 18 a few times in this sort of context, and it’s worthy of a response.

Yeshua says,

Moreover, if your brother commits a sin against you, go and show him his fault – but privately, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation can be supported by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to hear them, tell the congregation; and if he refuses to listen even to the congregation, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-collector.

Two aspects of this teaching don’t fit the circumstances of a public statement like the one we just made. First, we’re not saying that someone sinned against us, much less that “a brother” (individual) sinned against me (individually). Rather, we are confronting what we consider to be theological error that is being promoted widely by a group of individuals. This leads to the second point: in Matthew 18, Yeshua has in view private matters. If your brother sins against you, keep it private if you can, or at least seek to address it privately before going public. But when someone or some group posts public statements on their website and actively promotes a conference to the general public, it’s hardly something to keep private.

I’d say that there’s an ethical obligation to speak up within the same venue in which the false or misleading statement is made. We see Rav Shaul doing this very thing when Cephas (Peter) publicly acted in a misleading way.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal. 2:11-14)

Rav Shaul rebukes Cephas “before them all,” because they all saw his erroneous behavior, and to leave it unchallenged would create the impression that it was okay. Indeed, I’ve been in situations where something strange or misleading happened and people told me they thought it was all right because no one said anything. If you’re in a gathering where something wrong is said openly, you have to respond openly. So it was appropriate for us to post our response to “Christ at the Checkpoint” online – where the erroneous statements of that conference appear.

The holiness code of Leviticus 19 instructs us – just before the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” – “Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him” (Lev. 19:17). This may also be translated, ” “Reprove your kinsman and incur no guilt because of him.” The first reading implies that we should reprove in a way that doesn’t bring guilt upon us, which means keeping it private if we can, as in Matthew 18. The second reading implies that there are times when not to reprove would mean we share in the guilt. When false statements are made in public, as we believe they are in the “Christ at the Checkpoint” website, to remain silent in public is to incur guilt because of the other person.

As with many ethical issues, it takes discernment to know when to reprove in public and when in private, but I believe we have a clear responsibility to set the record straight when misleading public statements are made.

Advertisements

1 thought on “Matthew 18 and “Christ at the Checkpoint””

  1. This is an important issue, because the same tactic is used by others claiming to be part of the Body. Too many who have openly abused or slandered G-d’s people have “wrapped themselves in the flag” of Matt.18 to shut down scrutiny and discussion of their deeds.

    The big question is: Why does that tactic work so often? The cry of “foul” comes not just from the one(s) trying to evade exposure, but from sincere believers who are convinced that it’s “slander” to publicly report sinful behavior… even after one-on-one confrontation has brought no repentance.

    Somehow we have rewritten Matt.18 as: “Confront him privately; if he refuses to listen, go your way and keep it to yourself.” Only in extreme cases of doctrinal error or sexual sin do we follow Matt.18 as far as Step 3 or 4.

    As Russ has pointed out, we have Paul’s example with Peter. Note that not only did Paul take Peter to task in front of others, but then the incident in Antioch was repeated to the Galatians (who weren’t involved), and has since been broadcasted to the entire world for 2000 years! Today, wouldn’t someone imitating Paul be castigated by the worldwide Body for “slandering a brother”?

    This is one of the places where we have dumped apostolic teaching in favor of a low-risk, low-cost version of Body Life. And then we wonder why we have so little power compared to the apostles…

    “Those [elders and teachers] who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” (I Tim.5:20)
    “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” (Eph.5:11)

    To do anything less is NOT kindness. We are failing in our love of the brethren – especially our love of those who resist the call to repent.

    Taking CatC organizers to task publicly for their abuse of the scriptures and their slander of Christian Zionists is a good beginning. Let’s go on to confront that same spirit wherever it appears among us, and not allow it to hide behind Matt.18.

    blessings from Israel,
    Hannah Weiss
    Restorers of Zion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s