Matt. 18 is a most important chapter for Christian Ethics, because it deals with those qualities which should characterize the personal relationships of the Christian. We shall be dealing in detail with these relationships as we study the chapter section by section; but before we do so, it will be well to look at the chapter as a whole. It singles out seven qualities which should mark the personal relationships of the Christian.
(i) First and foremost, there is the quality of humility (Matt. 18:1-4). Only the person who has the humility of the child is a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Personal ambition, personal prestige, personal publicity, personal profit are motives which can find no place in the life of the Christian. The Christian is the man who forgets self in his devotion to Jesus Christ and in his service of his fellow-men.
(ii) Second, there is the quality of responsibility (Matt. 18:5-7). The greatest of all sins is to teach another to sin, especially if that other should be a weaker, a younger, and a less-experienced brother. God’s sternest judgment is reserved for those who put a stumbing-block in the way of others. The Christian is constantly aware that he is responsible for the effect of his life, his deeds, his words, his example on other people.
(iii) There follows the quality of self-renunciation (Matt. 18:8-10). The Christian is like an athlete for whom no training is too hard, if by it he may win the prize; he is like the student who will sacrifice pleasure and leisure to reach the crown. The Christian is ready surgically to excise from life everything which would keep him from rendering a perfect obedience to God.
(iv) There is individual care (Matt. 18:11-14). The Christian realizes that God cares for him individually, and that he must reflect that individual care in his care for others. He never thinks in terms of crowds; he thinks in terms of persons. For God no man is unimportant and no one is lost in the crowd; for the Christian every man is important and is a child of God, who, if lost, must be found. The individual care of the Christian is in fact the motive and the dynamic of evangelism.
(v) There is the quality of discipline (Matt. 18:15-20). Christian kindness and Christian forgiveness do not mean that a man who is in error is to be allowed to do as he likes. Such a man must be guided and corrected and, if need be, disciplined back into the right way. But that discipline is always to be given in humble love and not in self-righteous condemnation. It is always to be given with the desire for reconciliation and never with the desire for vengeance.
(vi) There is the quality of fellowship (Matt. 18:19-20). It might even be put that Christians are people who pray together. They are people who in fellowship seek the win of God, who in fellowship listen and worship together. Individualism is the reverse of Christianity.
(vii) There is the spirit of forgiveness (Matt. 18:23-35); and the Christian’s forgiveness of his fellow-men is founded on the fact that he himself is a forgiven man. He forgives others even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven him.
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