I’m currently reading The New Christians. Its my first Tony Jones book.
A few days ago, Jones threw me for a serious loop. Said “loop” involves this often-cited text from Matthew 18:
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
This text is typically used to justify either (a) excommunication or – as its called in some faith traditions – “disfellowshiping” or (b) a procedure for resolving conflicts among Christians – one which can justifiably end with a severing of relationships.
Pay attention to the last phrase: “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? How should Jesus’ own “treatment” of pagans and tax collectors influence our reading of this text?
I may elaborate more on Jones’ treatment of this text later – it adds a remarkable subtlety to the text that is typical of Jesus’ teachings. But…in the meantime: comments?