the weblog of Alan Knox

Why do we often respond differently to Jesus?

Posted by on Jun 24, 2013 in discipleship | 10 comments

One day, a friend of ours asked about dealing with a brother or sister in Christ who seemed completely apathetic to following Jesus. That led to a good discussion and some good advice from others, but it also led to a good discussion between my wife Margaret and myself.

As Margaret and I were talking about this subject, I remembered something that I had noticed earlier. When Jesus talked about dealing with a brother or sister who “sins against you,” those listening to him responded differently to the way that people today often respond to that same teaching.

What am I talking about? Well, start with this familiar passage:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence 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, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

Upon hearing or studying this passage, I’ve heard people respond with many questions, such as:

* Is this only for when a person sins directly again you, or is it also for someone who sins in general?

* Who should the one or two others be?

* What does it mean to “tell it to the church”? Who tells and when?

* What does it mean to treat the person “as a Gentile and a tax collector”?

* What does it mean to bind and loose?

* When Jesus says “where two or three are gathered,” is he only talking about “church discipline” or is he defining the church?

But, if we keep reading, we find that Jesus’ first audience responded quite differently:

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)

Peter recognized something that we often miss: Jesus’ statements were about relationships. When faced with the potential of breaking a relationship, most people will ask for forgiveness (even if they don’t really mean it). Peter recognized this, and wondered how many times he would have to forgive this brother who continued to sin against him.

How did Jesus respond? Keep on going to them, and keep on forgiving them.

I think there are other examples, too. But, to me, this is an obvious example of Jesus’ listeners responding to him differently than we often respond to him. Perhaps their focus (and Jesus’ focus) was different than our focus as well.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-24-2013

    My prayer is for myself, my family, my friends, and for Alan, his readers, and all their families and friends too.

    Father, please move us swiftly to forgive all those who sin against us in any way. We know our need to forgive quickly, gracefully, gently and joyfully. Over and over if necessary.

    Where we fall short, Father, please guide us, correct us and encourage us. In Jesus name, Amen.

    If we could learn this one thing we would do well!

  2. 6-24-2013

    There is no use to correct someone who do not worship God in our way. Even God doesn’t attempt to do such act. God creates everyone in a special way and gives everyone a particular heart, special abilities, skills, knowledge and wisdom. God also reveals himself to every person in a special way. But God has given to all the same commandment: “Love one another as I have love you”.

    We should contemplate God’s patience, tenderness and love for humanity, and apply the same standard in dealing with one another. This is the reason that we must forgive one another seventy seven times (endless). “Do not judge”, this is a commandment that comes out from the first mention above and is an expected standard for all who follow Jesus Christ.

    Our way of worshipping and responding to God’s commandment may be different to others and God knows the reasons, as much as He knows our hearts and our life’s history. He doesn’t want us to judge or compare ourselves to anyone else. Who is right or who is wrong is only a matter for people in the world but not for God. God judge our hearts according to His LOVE for us (1 Samuel 16:7). God doesn’t judge whether we are Jews or Christians, Protestants or Catholics, black or white, intelligent or stupid, rich or poor, etc (Galatians 3:28).

    Let’s do not engage ourselves in any argument about matters of faith, or understanding on the scripture. Even theologians cannot say they have understood God’s word for Jesus has said: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25).

    We just need to keep God’s commandment and forgive one another unconditionally as the simple rule for those who wants to take their cross and follow Jesus Christ.

  3. 6-24-2013

    Watchman Nee’s books have always proved challenging to me because Nee is Asian. While that should not be an issue, he still sees Jesus through an Eastern worldview that clashes strongly with my Western. For this reason, I find Nee to be one of the most important writers we Western Christians should read.

    If I have any beef with today’s Church in the West it’s that few people go beyond the simple questions. We do not attempt to step into another way of thinking. As a result, we do not ask the hard questions that are hard mostly because we’ve avoided asking them! Their very unfamiliarity throws nonstop wrenches into the cogwheels of our assumptions.

    This is one reason why I have no patience for people who read and endorse books solely from their familiar Christian ghettos.

    And yes, I’m becoming a curmudgeon.

  4. 6-24-2013


    I wonder why forgiveness is so difficult…

    Duc Minh Bui,

    I’m not as negative as you concerning discussing Scripture. I’ve found that discussion can be very beneficial, especially among a group of Jesus’ followers who love one another and share their lives together and remain united in Christ even when their interpretations of Scripture differ.


    That’s a good point. I don’t think we realize how much our Western perspective affects the way that we read and interpret Scripture.


  5. 6-25-2013

    Aw, Alan, you’ve gone and ruined all those perfectly good flowcharts for how pastors solve people problems in the church.

  6. 6-25-2013

    Very intriguing….

    Our responses, as Americans, to scripture is to typically focus on the processes, how to, efficiency, the ‘right’ steps….however, in Jesus’ interaction with His followers we continually see the focus being the heart, the bigger picture of relationship.

    It’s almost like God continually wants to focus on the heart of it all – and we get stuck trying to fix up the outside.

    stuck under the law, woah.

    He desires to change our hearts’ condition & perspective & priorities…. and we can trust that when that happens….the behavior and right how to’s will follow.

    So then why did Paul give specific commands….. in each letter first – he made sure to make it clear they were not under the law right… and revealed Christ in each other… but then Paul’s specific instructions to specific people about specific things… was him trying to assist them gauge where they were “off”? and helping them see symptoms of their hearts condition?

    So perhaps when we read the Bible and all the apparent how to’s, specifics…the outside behavior things….for us, we should read those and know it wasn’t written specifically to us about what is going on with us right now necessarily…..the way we ought to take from it…. is to look at the how to’s…. and figure out what the bigger picture behind it all is saying…. figure out what Paul and the Lord were trying to communicate about the heart, priority, perspective.

    Woah my brain just totally shifted. LIGHTBULB!!!


  7. 6-25-2013


    Nah. I haven’t ruined those flow charts. All we have to do is focus on the first part of Jesus statement and leave out Peter’s response… like we usually do.


    It’s amazing how much the authors of Scripture focus on our relationships with one another as a result of our new life in Jesus Christ. Of course, they had to focus on those relationships because they are still extremely difficult – even while we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit.


  8. 6-25-2013

    It really is all about relationship isn’t it. And it’s just so amazing to me that relationships are how God grows us. Our growth is completely dependent on our relationships.

    Over and over again He is reminding me this week that I need to stop rushing whatever it is I think He is calling me to…. and instead understand that the first thing I need to do right now is continue to be broken & chiseled down by the daily cross of intimate, TRUE, open relationships. Ohhh it’s so hard: the pain & difficulties of organic Church relationships — the building up of each other through the messy chiseling & molding of each other’s personalities & weaknesses to bring forth the strength of the personality & being in Christ. That is His plan, though. And the results are beautiful.

  9. 6-27-2013


    You said, “It really is all about relationship isn’t it.” Yes, yes it is. 🙂

    It’s all about our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and the resulting relationships with one another.


  10. 6-28-2013