Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
- Matthew 18:15
Trespass is primarily an Old Testament word used generally concerning trespasses against God and the offerings to God to restore the relationship. However, there are also references where one person has trespassed against another person(s) and how the trespass was repaired.
With a world full of human beings, we are certain that someone will trespass against someone else at some time. In our key scripture, the Lord is talking about the trespassing of brothers and sisters within the Church.
Trespass is a thought-provoking word and means “to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour to do or go wrong. To wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin. “
When brothers or sisters from our church offend us or trespass against us, it can make us quite defensive in judgment, thinking, “she is a Christian and should know better” or “he is a believer, why would he say that stuff?” Yet, we have probably made similar mistakes ourselves. But, when we are the offenders and not the offended, we rarely think about our guilt in the matter at the time of the trespass. We are fired up and right!
The Lord wants these typical anomalies that occur when humans get together healed as simply and quickly as possible; and, like all Biblical advice, our scripture is brief, to the point, and on point.
The trespass is significant, as it has torn people apart, e.g. “if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (as opposed to previously losing thy brother).” The trespass caused a loss of brotherhood or sisterhood, which goes against Gods ideals and law.
However, for some issues, separation needs to happen, as in I Corinthians 5:11. This case highlights some spiritual deviations that would create the distancing between spiritual family members, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer (abusive), or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”
When one falls into the traps of some of the above, they are not merely offences against us but trespasses against the Law of God, the law by which we live. Offenders become outlaws, and we are citizens of the Kingdom. We are now at odds with the offenders, as they have alienated themselves. Therefore, “go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
If he hear your words of wisdom, you have gained him back. Yet, if he shall not hear, it is our responsibility not to talk about him behind his back, but to get the posse together and go after him again with a further purpose, “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”
We know from experience that not all trespassers listen to wisdom. There is a pride and arrogance which creates spiritual deafness, blocking sound advice, regardless of where it comes from.
If there is no repentance after the posse, then come the ultimatums; “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
So, first, he trespasses against one person, then, by a lack of repentance, continues until he's trespassed against the entire church, alienating himself by law.
God wants reconciliation, so whether we are the offender or the offended, He hopes we will both bury our individual points of pride and seek recovery of the relationship.
Today’s prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the simple solution-by-humility to trespassing against my spiritual family, or anyone else for that matter. Please help me to be able to accept an apology when it is given, and also have the humility to apologise when I am at fault.