Matthew 18 is a very important chapter in the New Testament because here Jesus deals with issues that are crucial when it comes to having a healthy church. If we follow these biblical principles, our churches will be healthier and stronger, better equipped to take care of their own members and to reach out to the lost.
The chapter starts out with Jesus stressing the importance of humility. We all know that pride goes before a fall. Jesus says we must become as humble as a little child. Small children must depend on their parents to provide them with everything they need to survive and grow. In the same way, we Christians must rely on our heavenly Father to provide for us. Our humble, trusting nature will help us maintain a healthy relationship with God and with our fellow Christians.
Then Jesus talks about the need for holiness. By no means are we to lead others astray! Severe punishment is promised to those who cause others to sin. And while we are at it, we ourselves had better avoid a sinful lifestyle! This is the Scripture where Jesus says it would be better to cut off a hand or a foot or to gouge out an eye rather than to engage in heinous sin. The fact that Jesus is obviously using exaggeration here in no way softens his teaching on holiness. In order to be spiritually healthy, we must pursue holiness. Any church that ignores this teaching is in danger of grieving the Holy Spirit of God.
Jesus moves on to talk about the importance of finding just one lost sheep. A good shepherd will leave the flock of 99 to go search for the one sheep that has strayed away. In this time of COVID-19, there is a grave danger of sheep disappearing from the flock and never coming back. We must not let them drift away unnoticed! While it is prudent for some to avoid being in crowds at this time, we must make extra efforts to reach out to them and see that they are reunited with the flock as soon as possible. Our Father in heaven doesn’t want any one of these drifting sheep to perish. Neither should we!
Then Jesus deals with the need to confront sin in the church. Most people dislike confrontation, but it is absolutely necessary to directly and discretely and lovingly point out the serious sins of church members. Ignoring any health problem will not make it go away. The same is true of spiritual health problems in the church. No church is perfect, but a healthy one has mature members who do not shy away from their responsibility to address serious sins in the church.
Jesus finishes up the chapter by pointing out the necessity of forgiveness. God has forgiven each of us of for a lot of serious sins. How hypocritical it is when we claim to have accepted forgiveness from God, yet withhold forgiveness from people who have sinned against us in the slightest way! Remember that God forgives us on the same basis that we forgive others! Withholding forgiveness leads to all kinds of spiritual sickness, but freely forgiving others is a big key to leading a spiritually healthy life.
There you have it. This is a great list of qualities to pursue if we want to have a healthy church. It takes every member working together, constantly striving to achieve spiritual health. While we always hope and pray for physical health, let’s also give priority to doing whatever we can to promote spiritual health in the church.