When do we get to stop trying? | Matthew 18:15-17


When do we get to stop trying? | Part 3

How do I, as a Christian, play a part in the redemption of the Lost Sheep? What can I do to help bring them back to the fold?

Mat 18:15  
"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
Mat 18:16
 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
Mat 18:17  
If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.

As a recap, let's quickly refresh on the beginning of Step 1.

Jesus had just finished telling the parable of the Lost Sheep, a parable which finished with this statement:

In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.

Remembering that this whole teaching, from Matthew 18:3-35, is in response to the question that the disciples asked Jesus; “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”, let’s move on.

Usually when there is a parable being used to teach a concept it is followed with the explanation of the concept. In this case Jesus does that very thing. He now explains the process for dealing with “a lost sheep“, or, as we see it explained, a fellow believer.

What are the steps in the process?

The steps escalate as time goes on and they are all contingent upon the “sheep” remaining lost. At any point in the process if the believer realizes his lost state (confession) and seeks to return to the fold, he or she does not need the next step. So let’s look at each step individually, and then as a whole process.

Step 1 & 2:“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. ” Matthew 18:15   But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. Mat 18:16

If you have not read Part 1 and 2 of this 3 part series you should do that first. START HERE __________________________________

Step 3: Or as I like to refer to it, Defcon 6. This is the final stage. If you have unfortunately made it all the way to this point then you have been struggling mightily for quite some time and may even be tempted to become short tempered, irritable and worst of all...self righteous. Don't do it, your not off the hook yet.


So, did you do the first two steps in the right spirit? In the Holy Spirit? Before entering step 3 it might be a good idea to ask yourself,

"Did I do steps 1 and 2 according to Jesus' counsel?

"Should I go back and do it right?"

Remind yourself that you are in the business of winning souls back to Jesus. You are a minister for Christ Jesus. This is no simple process to be taken lightly and dealt with quickly.

It is a travesty that you have gotten to this spot in the first place. Where is the spirit of the good shepherd? [Romans 15:13] Is He leading you? Ask yourself; is it the most important thing to you to have this person back in the fold, or are you just "playing church" so that everyone else will say you did the steps? Question your motives and ask God to reveal to you what will really bring back HIS lost sheep. [Psalm 139:23] So, what am I trying to say in so many words...?

It's not all about you!

Okay, now that you've been thoroughly rebuked, let's go through a quick checklist:

  • You completed step 1 and did it with an open mind and a contrite spirit.
  • You entered into this process without any of the problems mentioned in Romans 1:29.
  • You have been following Jesus' counsel clearly and step-by-step, and reluctantly entered step 2
  • Your desire has always been to "win that person back".
  • You really want to go back to Step 1 but God is clearly telling you it's time for step 3

If all of the above are true, then it's time for step 3. Are you getting the point? I knew you would...


"If the person still refuses to listen,..." Okay, we now know for sure that this lost sheep has a hearing problem. I wonder if the problem is that they are not hearing you or if it is that they are not hearing the Holy Spirit? Hmmmm...what do you think? Suffice it to say, they are deaf as a door knob.

"...Take your case to the church..." This implies that you must take what you know and the testimony of the witnesses used in step 2 to your church body.

This church body is hopefully the body of Christ which means that they will first and foremost want to handle the situation with utmost care and love. A humble spirit will help to find a way to make a decision that is Holy Spirit led.

They will understand that they are a body and will consider removal of this person as painful a process as having a limb amputated. They are only removing it because it would cause more damage to the body if it stayed attached. You go to the church body with the same attitude, never seeking to just "make your case" but with a humble spirit seeking to bring as much clarity to the situation as possible. After all, we wouldn't want to amputate the wrong arm....(think on that for a spell)

"...Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision..." Okay, we can now assume that the church has made a decision. But what we can't assume is that the church body has made a drastic decision. They may have made a decision that included keeping the "arm" and giving it more time to heal. They may have decided to continue to treat the "arm" with loving medicine in hopes that it will become a useful and strong arm again. Amputation is a drastic measure after all.

The "if he or she won't accept" implies however, that they do need to amputate. So, the procedure is implemented with the utmost care and the arm is removed.

"...treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector." Maintaining our amputation analogy, what do we now have? Well, it seems that we have a disembodied arm laying around. Are we being called by Jesus to throw it in the trash? Nope, we are called to treat it even better than before. Treat it as a bionic arm replacement. Treat it as a bionic arm that could be grafted back into the body if only we could find a way to build it better, faster, stronger. (Sorry, I seem to be slipping into a 6 Million Dollar Man analogy)


I think that Jesus is asking us to be smart enough to know that he spent time with pagans and tax collectors. He showed them kindness. He wants us to be willing to humbly seek to gain them back. They should be visited and evangelized and most of all LOVED.

Dear reader, how have you handled conflicts in your church. Have you been the source of healing? Have you been the one seeking after the lost sheep, or the one holding the scalpel in your hand? Have you followed the beautiful and timeless counsel of your Savior?

Oh yeah, by the way. Did you wonder why the title of this series was "When do we get to stop trying?" Do you know the answer to that question now? I thought you might.

The answer is NEVER! Jesus made this clear when He said we have to "treat them like a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. These should be evangelized...these should be sought after as souls for Christ...always.


Dear Lord,

I ask that You will please always remind me of this amazing counsel any time I am involved in a dispute. Remind me to use You as You want me to. Thank You so much for the wisdom You have given us in Your word. Thank you for taking my place on the cross.

Be with my family, church body and friends. Give us the gift of the Holy Spirit and prepare us to be a body with You at the head. I love you Lord. Amen