“If your brother sins against you, go and show him ...” (Matthew 18:15-17)

“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.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

What does 'sins against you' mean?

Here Jesus is discussing a situation that might occur between two fellow disciples or students. Otherwise, there would be no purpose for him saying that if the other did not accommodate or correct the transgression, then treat the situation as one would treat a tax collector or unbeliever ("pagan").

The term 'sins against you' is broad and covers situations where there is a dispute between two people. In such an affair, each party typically thinks the other party offended them in some way. This could be communicated as a 'sin" against them, but mostly it is considered some kind of transgression.

We must remember that Jesus was speaking directly to his students. And since Jesus was disregarded and largely dismissed by temple rabbis and temple organizers (pharisees and sadducees), the only group that Jesus could be referring to was his circle of disciples.

What 'church' is Jesus referring to?

The translation here is obviously not correct in its word choice because at the time of Jesus' teaching, there was no "church."

The word "church"
is being translated from the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) which simply means an assembly or group of some sort. Thus a more appropriate translation would be "assembly" rather than "church."

In this case, "assembly" would aptly describe the addition of "take one or two others along."

Jesus is also speaking to his students at a particular time and circumstance - not to the entire world some two thousand years from the time he spoke those words.

These are specific instructions, and yes they can be applied in a broader sense, but finding two or three people to help settle a disagreement between ourselves and someone else may prove difficult in many circumstances.

Today, two people might employ a mediator or arbitrator to help work out a difference. Courts are also sometimes used but these can get nasty because lawyers charge big dollars for their services.

How does Jesus suggest we manage disputes?

The bottom line of Jesus' point is to try to focus our lives upon the Supreme Being, and get through our petty disputes as simply and quickly as possible.

What about the disputes between the various sectarian institutions?

Today various sects that claim to follow Jesus disagree about what Jesus was teaching. But the disputes are with Jesus, not between the various sects. Because Jesus taught simple truths that can be easily applied.

The problem is the election and appointment of the teachers by the various sects. This contradicts Jesus' teachings.

The process given by the Supreme Being and practiced by Jesus is that scripture should be translated and interpreted by those who have been empowered by the Supreme Being rather than by those chosen or appointed by other people.

In the case of the sectarian organizations that have delivered the Bible and its various translations, those translators have largely been chosen and employed by committees of politically oriented members whose purpose was to sustain their respective organizations. In other words, they were not chosen by God. They were politically appointed. Their appointment was made with an intent to support the institution.

This is illustrated by the various appointments of the Nicene Council bishops made by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century AD as he sought to organize a single institution consistent with Rome's intent to dominate the Middle East and Europe. This facilitated the Roman Catholic Church's domination of the region for over a thousand years.

Emperor Constantine organized the First Council of Nicaea in 325 by assembling prominent church leaders from around Europe. This enabled the council to negotiate and decide on a single doctrine. This political process was reinforced by succeeding councils, such as the Second Council of Ephesus in 449 A.D. This was organized by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II, and led to the creation of the Roman Catholic Church.

This essentially defined Jesus and his teachings for the next 1600 years.

This was done through a political process. An election of sorts, where the council had to come to an agreement. As such, there were differing opinions regarding who Jesus was and the emphasis of his teachings. But Constantine pushed the council to come up with a single interpretation.

This is a political negotiation, determined by men.

While a political negotiation in an assembly of people might help us settle disputes, the Supreme Being and His messenger cannot be defined by a political process. His teachings cannot be interpreted correctly by a political process.

The Supreme Being is who He is, and His teachings are what they are. Only the Supreme Being and His representative can define them and interpret them.

Can councils represent God?

From the Nicene Synods and Nicene Creed forward we find practically the entire state of affairs of the various sectarian institutions have followed a process of electing leaders including popes, bishops, cardinals, priests and ministers through political assembly and/or political councils.

This makes each of these leaders unable to represent God. Why? Because they were elected by men. They are being chosen by men within these institutions. And as a result, those popes, bishops, priests and ministers are representing the men of the councils and institutions that elected them. They cannot thus represent the Supreme Being.

Why can't these councils represent God? Only a loving servant of the Supreme Being can represent Him. Groups of people cannot represent God. By their very nature, groups utilize methods of agreement - such as negotiation and politics - which remove their ability to represent God. God's will cannot be subject to negotiation. Or politics. His will is His will.

Our relationship with the Supreme Being is a personal one. This is how the Supreme Being operates. He has personal relationships with each person.

Because the Supreme Being enjoys personal loving relationships, this is how we can connect with Him. By connecting with one of God's loving servants.

Did Jesus do this?

Jesus illustrated this. Jesus had a personal relationship with God. But he still accepted John the Baptist as his personal teacher - by accepting his baptism. Then he went out and taught people, and accepted each student on an individual basis.

Then he asked each of his disciples to go out and pass on those teachings to others.

Jesus did not appoint any single person. Nor did he ask a council to get together to elect the next leader. Rather, he asked all of his students to pass his teachings on.

Those who were able to this had heard and followed Jesus' teachings and were thus empowered by the Supreme Being to pass those teachings on to others. This is what James, Peter, John, Thomas and other disciples of Jesus did.

There was no council or appointed group. Yes, Jesus selected twelve "close" disciples to assist him in his preaching affairs. But he also sent out 72 disciples (Luke 10:1) to go out and preach for him. So he wasn't appointing only twelve people or even 72. Rather, there were 72 individuals who had each heard Jesus' teachings and applied them to their life - and passed them on to others.

This is God's system. One individual learns from a devoted teacher who learned from another devoted teacher. This leads to a succession of devoted teachers, each learning not only from their teacher but the teachers before them. This is why Jesus not only quoted John the Baptist, but also quoted Moses, David, Isaiah and others before John.

What empowers each of these teachers is not appointment or selection by men or councils. God empowers His messengers. It is an individual process, not a political process.

This is because love for God is deeply personal and takes place between each individual and the Supreme Being, who is the Greatest Person:
“But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen. by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8)