Like a tax collector.

This passage about a brother who sins is found in the gospel of Matthew (18:15-17): Jesus said to his disciples: "If your brother sins, go to him and speak with him yourself alone. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. But if he does not listen, then take one or two others with you, since "the matter can be upheld on the word of two or three witnesses." If he still does not listen to them, then bring the matter to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him like a heathen or a taxcollector."

The passage resembles Chapter 28 of the Rule of St. Benedict on what to do with a brother who does not amend after repeated corrections. There Benedict advises the abbot to use the ointment of exhortation, the medicine of Scripture, the cautery of excommunication, and the strokes of the rod. If the brother after all this still does not improve, Benedict recommends the use of a still greater remedy, the prayers of the abbot and all the brethren. It seems that the best and the gentlest remedy is used last. Perhaps a comparison may be made with the above text from the gospel.

Matthew bids us go first to the erring brother by ourself. (By the way, the phrase in Norwegian used here means "under four eyes." This reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says "First take the splinter out of your own eye! Then you will be able to see clearly enough to take the plank out of your brother’s eye." To be "under four eyes" means that we must have both eyes clear before we can go to clear up any matter with someone else.) If our brother does not hear, then we should take with us one or two others. If the brother still does not hear, then the matter should be taken to the church. If this still does not yield results, then Matthew says that we should treat the brother like a heathen or a taxcollector.

Remember that Matthew himself was a taxcollector. What was his experience? Matthew writes about his own call in Matt 9:9. Jesus saw Matthew sitting at the taxcollector’s booth and said, "Follow me!" Matthew got up and followed him. Later Jesus was a guest at Matthew’s home. The pharisees noticed that many taxcollectors and sinners were sitting at the table with Jesus, and they complained about this. Jesus answered: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew’s call was connected to his feelings of being sick, in need of mercy, and of being a sinner. Think back to your own call. How have you experienced Jesus? Was it Jesus as a doctor, or Jesus as Lord, or Jesus as savior?

I like the use of the word taxcollector because it reminds me of the Letter to the Romans where it says "Owe no debt to anyone except the debt of love." Matthew changed from one who collected debts to one who himself was a debter who owed love.

So what is Matthew saying in this passage? When we have tried to speak with another and have laid the matter before the chruch, when we have tried everything and the other still is not

able to hear or to change, then we must treat him like a taxcollector. That is to say, love him all the more, show him mercy, and invite him home to dinner where Jesus will be present.