One of the best-known verses in the Gospel is found at Matthew 18: 15-20; Jesus said to his Disciples, “Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them”. (18:20)
An assurance that, no matter how few of God’s People gather, Christ is with us. It is a verse contained within a passage in which Jesus is teaching about personal relationships in the Christian Community.
He speaks about the behaviour of God’s People and the way in which we deal and relate to one another.
We all can make mistakes and may be criticised for them, justly or unjustly. What is important, is how we handle those situations; when someone does or says something that causes upset.
So, what was Jesus telling the Disciples to do? Simply, go and speak with the person about whatever concerns there may be.
Meet, not in a spirit of anger or aggressive confrontation and condemnation; rather, with openness and a spirit of reconciliation. As Paul put it, when writing to the Christians in Rome “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”. (Romans 13:14)
Talk, and try to work through and understand whatever difficulty is causing the problem. But that does not always come easily. Instead, rather than face what is wrong, the temptation is to ignore the problem or simply avoid the other person or group.
The risk we run by doing so is that the anger, the frustration, the disappointment, the resentment, whatever the emotion, grows and festers inside us.
But through Jesus we are empowered to face that problem; that difficult situation. “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them”.
Jesus is promising his presence to help us confront the difficult issues we can experience with each other; with fellow Believers.
It is more than a promise that we will sense his presence, it is a reality that he is with us; sharing in every word, every thought and every action.
We aren’t left on our own as we struggle to become the sort of communities, families and churches that Jesus calls us to be. He is with us! We resolve our difficulties in His strength and by working together, in harmony and through prayer.
But how does that square when Jesus suggests to his disciples that if someone is a source of conflict or wrongdoing, yet refuses to acknowledge that or even listen to reason, they are to treat that person, “as you would a pagan or a tax collector”. (18:17)
Is that person to be ostracised, written off? If so, that would be completely contrary to everything we know of Jesus. He was the friend of sinners, of outcasts, of tax collectors and of everyone that society rejected.
Not at all; rather than abandon someone, he is saying that we are to start afresh. It is a challenge to win that person over with the love which can touch even the hardest heart.
A community with God present is to be one that is always seeking to restore the lost, not ignore.
Yes, we can have problems with others in the church. But, going in the huff or ignoring the other person, solves nothing. When we build walls, we run the risk of isolating ourselves.
In our attempts at resolving conflict with each other, we need Christ with us; guiding and supporting.
Mathew reminds us, that when we pray in Christian fellowship, regardless of numbers, we are assured of Christ’s presence. “Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them”.
This is a promise that remains central to everything that Christians ever do together. No matter how many or few gather in Jesus’ name, He is in the midst of them. Isn’t that wonderful?
Whenever or wherever we meet and share with others, in church, in our homes and in all places and at all times, let us celebrate that the Lord is with us.
He is with us to support, strengthen and help us, as we deal with the difficult relationships in life.
Let us pray.
Father in Heaven, Your Son assured us that where two or three gather in His name, He is there. So we pray for all your people everywhere; all who celebrate your love, praise your name and feed on your Word.
Whether that is in a church building or, for many of us at this time, in our homes, we know You are there, in our midst.
Lord Jesus, as you taught about difficulties in relationships with others, so we pray for those who live in homes and in families where argument and discord casts a shadow over lives; where family relationships are at breaking point.
May hearts be opened to your reconciling Grace. May your healing Spirit breathe into our homes and communities and quell the heated arguments that mar our living.
As we are called to encourage and uplift one another in God’s love, build us up so that we can go out in your Name and continue Your work to bring about change to make life better for others.
Amen, and may the love of God uphold us, day and night, and always.