Treat Them as a Pagan or a Tax Collector

In Unclean I paint a picture of radical hospitality, a vision based on Jesus's own ministry of table fellowship with "tax collectors and sinners." And as I've made that argument people often point to passages in the bible that seem to push against that vision. One such passage comes from Matthew 18:
Matthew 18.15-17
[Jesus said:] “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they 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 they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."
This is one of those passages that has been used to support practices of exclusion and excommunication within the church. Specifically, if a fellow brother or sister is in sin and fails to repent at the encouragement of the church we are to "treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." That is, we are to shun them.

But I wonder if that interpretation makes any sense. This passage in Matthew is found between two parables of forgiveness, the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18.10-14) and the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18.21-35).

In the Parable of the Lost Sheep we see the good shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep to find the one lost sheep. And after finding that sheep a party is thrown.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant begins with Peter's question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?" Jesus responds: "Seven times seventy times" and goes on to tell the parable which concludes with these words: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

In light of these parables which bookend Jesus's discussion of "church discipline" how are we to understand Jesus's call to treat the unrepentant as "pagans and tax collectors"? On the surface it seems that the message of Matthew 18.15-17 contradicts the parables surrounding it.

The key, I think, to resolving the tension is found in observing how Jesus interacted with "tax collectors and sinners." That is, it makes no sense to read Jesus as telling his followers to treat tax collectors and sinners like the Pharisees were treating tax collectors and sinners. Recall the contrast observed earlier in Matthew 9:
Matthew 9.10-13a
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
These concluding words--"For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners"--is an almost perfect anticipation of the Parable of the Lost Sheep: "And if the shepherd finds the lost sheep, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off."

How might this understanding--we treat tax collectors as Jesus treated tax collectors--change how people have read Matthew  18.15-17? Well, it changes it completely. No longer is this text read as a mandate for exclusion, as a warrant for kicking people out. Rather what we find is a mandate for inclusion, a warrant for sending and seeking and embracing. True, if a brother or sister is engaged in sin our relationship within the church is altered. You've become "a lost sheep" and a "tax collector."

But if I am following Jesus that doesn't mean I'm excluding you. It actually means I'm pursuing you and spending more time with you than ever before.

I'm leaving the ninety-nine sheep back at the church and hanging out with you in the wilderness.

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66 thoughts on “Treat Them as a Pagan or a Tax Collector”

  1. This is a revelation for me - I've always read this text in light of 1 Corinthians 5 instead of its context in Matthew, and I feel so relieved to see a new reading.  Just wondering how you would read the Corinthians chapter on shunning the sexually immoral, given your interpretation here.  Thank you!

  2. I've been thinking about that. I do talk a bit about 1 Cor. 5 in Unclean. But I'm not sure I have any great insight as to how to reconcile these texts given the reading I've given here. Some options:

    1. I'm simply wrong about reading Matthew 18 as a sending text. That the designation "lost sheep" (i.e., tax collector and pagan) is attractional (i.e., "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.").

    2. Jesus and Paul aren't on the same page. Jesus has a vision of eating with tax collectors and sinners and Paul says "don't even eat with such a one." Wouldn't be the first time people have thought that Paul placed the emphasis a bit differently than Jesus.

    3. There is a way to split the difference between the extreme readings--shunning versus radical hospitality. This, I think, is what most people will want to do. I suggest something like this in Unclean where I suggest that the faith community does have an obligation to preserve its moral and spiritual integrity. The key is how we treat those who have become lost sheep. My argument in the book and in this post is that lost sheep should be treated with affection and love. As I say in Unclean, you can't read 1 Cor. 5 without 1 Cor. 13 firmly in place. The problem is that 1 Cor. 5 is often used as warrant to throw 1 Cor. 13 under the bus.

  3. Once again Richard, your exegesis seems spot on to me.  I also think your hermeneutic (using the surrounding texts to find a consistent line throughout) to be a sound approach and is preferred to the cherry-picking we tend to do.

    This is particularly prescient for me as the regional council of the church where I am flagged last night that the national council will be considering same-sex marriage at its meeting so we should all gird our loins (or something like that). I am starting to think about how I will respond to the issue both privately and publicly. I will definitely keep this passage in mind.

  4. Last night in a small group of friends someone showed me a letter from a local pastor.  The pastor wrote to encourage his people to shun a specific unrepentant girl who had moved in with her boyfriend.  He quoted the 1 Corinthian's passage.  He also said that the steps in Matthew had been taken and they were at this point.  The group gathered, all responded that this was wrong and I agreed.  The letter wouldn't have caused me to return to that church... I assume it drove her further into sin and away from the God that pastor represented.  

    As asked the group, if this letter is wrong (which I thought it was) how should we read 1 Cor 5?  

    The only thought I could come to was this... 

    1.  Same as your #2.  Paul was wrong. 
    2.  Maybe we should stop reading the NT as prescriptions and start reading it as what it is... descriptions of what happened.  Maybe, in that specific case in ways we can't understand today Paul's instructions were right. Maybe we need to stop looking to the scriptures for answers and start leaning on the direction of the Holy Spirit present within us.... maybe we need to lean on the mind of Christ.  
    3.  The third option is we are all wrong and Paul was right and the letter writing Pastor is right.  

    I pick 1 or 2.  I respect your answer #3, but see that as too unclear and muddy.  It is also another way to continue treating the bible with almost worship-like reverence.  I love the bible, but I think it is time we quit acting like God told us to canonize and worship 66 books.

    Is there an real biblically sound argument to be made for the canonization and near worship of scripture we have today?  I know that answer involves a circle, but did Jesus predict the coming of a cannon, did He recommend it?  

    By the way... I'm here because of the podcast you did with Raborn Johnson - Beyond the Box.  I'm going to pick his brain today at lunch, wish you could join us.  

  5. In Luke, John tells the tax collectors to "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." (Luke 3:13).  Here and in other places, such as with Zaccheus, it indicates to me there were abuses of power going on. Tax gatherers had power over those from whom they collected, and so were part of the powers of the day. It may be just me, but it seems that there's simply an awareness and vigilance that is necessary when dealing with someone who, without conscience, will take advantage of those whom they can, and refuses to acknowledge as wrongs even after repeated attempts at reconciliation. It may not mean shunning, and it may mean continued interaction, but a bully without a conscience is someone to be wary of.

  6. 1st parable:  Since I am not a 'good shepard' and haven't lost any 'sheep' when I see a brother sin, this parable is not about 'me' forgiving or having 'fellowship' with anybody.  Of course, with enough 'progressive thinking' it can indeed be about 'me.'

    2rd parable:  Of course, if a brother or sister sins against me, I should forgive them.  A gentile (pagan) was most surely not a brother or sister or lost sheep to Jesus or any Israelite He was addressing here.  God had specifically directed them to keep away from gentiles.  Our situation is completely different and to mix the two is . . .

    Matthew 18:15ff:  The 'you' here is singular.  Jesus is addressing a person not a 'church.'  Not only a person; but, an Israelite and not a gentile.  This Israelite would have no trouble understanding what it meant to treat the unrepentent sinner as a gentile.  And, whether or not the Israelite was supposed to have 'radical hospitality' with this sinner was obvious and needed no glossing over.

    When the pharisees asked "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" they were not considering gentiles but other Israelites whom they considered sinners.  They (the pharisees) considered themselves righteous; the sinners that Jesus ate with and came for did not consider themselves 'righteous.'  Jesus came for those Israelites who did not consider themselves righteous.  Also, He did not come for gentiles.

    Sorry, but you have mixed so many apples and oranges together here that it has led to a false conclusion.

  7. "Sorry, but you have mixed so many apples and oranges together here that it has led to a false conclusion."

    Richard's conclusion: "But if I am following Jesus that doesn't mean I'm excluding you. It actually means I'm pursuing you and spending more time with you than ever before."

    Who then, David, should we exclude? Who is Jesus telling us to exclude from his message of "good news?"

  8. Yep. The only conclusion I draw: Treat sinners the way Jesus treated sinners. Simple really.

  9. Similar to your argument in No. 2, I think we need to keep in mind Christian Smith's Christocentric hermeneutic when looking at possible contradictions between Jesus and Paul, as well as remembering the fact that when we read Paul, we are reading someone else's 2,000-year-old mail. Paul is dealing with new churches in a polytheistic, syncretistic society. You could argue our culture shares more in common than we realize with the culture of the ancient Greco-Roman world, but I think it's safe to say Christianity as a faith is not one heresy away from extinction as it was in Paul's time. 

    That helps me get a better handle on some of Paul's more harsh language; he was fighting for the very survival of the church in a way we simply cannot understand when 80 percent of Americans claim some form of Christianity. He was applying the teachings of Jesus – the ones he knew of – in a practical way that would also preserve the church as a unique entity that could 1. be distinctly defined in a syncretistic culture (thus passages like 1 Cor 5), and 2. keep its members alive once those distinctions attracted the notice of the authorities (thus the culture-bound references to women and slaves).

    Once we understand Paul's reasons for saying what he does and remember to read Paul through the experience of Jesus (just as he read the Old Testament the same way), I think it becomes a lot easier to understand and accept the differences we see between the two – and also, I think, to treat others the way Jesus wants us to treat them.

  10. How about if you take Paul's "lump" to be the unrepentant heart and the "leaven" to be the misguided thought? Shunning would be like throwing the spoiled dough into the compost, whereas Paul suggests that the bad leaven can be wash out, which would be compatible with the usual arc of salvation. There's no evidence that Jesus tolerated sin, he just had a better way of addressing it, one that actually worked.



    (Like at the Wedding at Cana: Jesus didn't tolerate drunken behavior: he gave them water to drink and let them discover that the purified water was the best wine of all.)



    An inside-out issue that came up for me recently: my co-kids' group leader picked out a "grunge" song that I thought was radically inappropriate due to pervasive ugly pagan images, despite being from a "Christian" group using many Christian words. The co-leader, the church's song director and the Pastor didn't see it (although we agreed to not use that song). So what happens when you take it to the church and the church doesn't listen? What should I do? a) shun the church and skip on down the road to another one b) change my heart and learn to accept grungy songs c) continue in fellowship with less than total unity. I'm voting with my feet for c).

  11. Richard,

    I've read this passage in Matthew in the same manner as you present it for a very long time. It is part of what I call my hermeneutic of sarcasm and/or irony. I think Jesus spoke "tongue in cheek" and with a wink a great deal of the time.

  12. That does indeed sound so 'simple.'  And, how is it that you distinguish between the sinners and the non-sinners?  BTW, Jesus came to save sinners; can you do that too?

  13. O.K. Jesus called sinners to repent and join his kingdom. That's what the word "pursue" means, to a Jesus-follower. Are you actually calling us, in cases of church discipline, to spend even more time pursuing people, calling them to repent, calling them to join Jesus' Kingdom? I think that's a great idea, but I'm not sure that, in our culture, people will see that as "hospitable."

  14. Has 1 Cor 13 ever been used as a warrant to throw 1 Cor 5 under the bus? I have never, ever seen an American church "shun" anyone, lovingly or not. I have never, ever seen an American church name anyone as outside the Kingdom, needing to be called into it--lovingly or not. I have never, ever seen church discipline at all--nor have any of my friends when I ask them. Given this, it's hard for me to understand your vision of churches who are running amuck following 1 Cor 5 in such unholy ways.

    What I have seen--occasionally--is a hint from some Christian leader that certain sorts of behavior are not acceptable for those who belong to the community of faith. Then 1 Cor 13 is trotted out, and the leader backs down.

    Am I exaggerating? What experiences are you thinking of?

  15. If by 'we' you mean the church (the body of Christ) then Paul has already made that quite clear.

    You think he is just 'oh so unloving' and 'excluding' then fine.  You don't believe him (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and after having spent 3 years alone with the risen Lord) so be it.  You want to focus on what the 12 said after spending three years with the pre-cross Christ under the Mosaic law, so be it.

    Same response for your question regarding the 'good news.'  The good news to the church (the body of Christ) in 1 Cor 15 has nothing to do with you or I excluding anybody.  It has to do with trust and not treatment by you or me of sinners.

  16. Maybe what makes this letter so poorly handled is the fact that we never follow 1 Cor 5 (or Matthew 18), so the only examples we can come up with of someone doing so is someone doing an insanely poor job of it. This could mean we should never follow 1 Cor 5--but it could mean that we need a lot more practice!

    As to canonization--yes, the NT does regularly describe Scripture as a fixed source for guiding discourse about the community's view of following God. Jesus didn't have to predict a canon; he already had one. Granted, he didn't worship the OT, but he did rebuke people who "err" because they don't take into account the clear teaching/ implications of "scripture" as a guide to the "power of God."

    But my real point is this: those of you who think that sinners are poor oppressed people that we shouldn't pick on, I'd invite the thought experiment of pretending that you had a full-throated racist in your church. Imagine he is offering prayers, passing communion, then going into the church parking lot and railing against "Those damn N*****s." Imagine that he has been visited by friends and elders and refuses to change. Granted we should still love this man. Granted we should still "pursue" him with the radical call to repentance--maybe even hang out with him in order to find a way to teach him better. But would we not want the church, as a church, to declare publicly that this person stood outside the community of Jesus-followers, and that joining the community of Jesus-followers would require a change in his life?

    Maybe the real reason we don't want to shame sexual sinners is that we don't really, in our hearts, believe that sexual sins "count" the way that racism counts. I read a Father Brown (G.K. Chesterton) story only yesterday in which the priest complained that society is always incredibly "tolerant" and "forgiving" toward sins that are fashionable--toward sins that it does not regard as sins. Let's up the ante and consider behavior that you actually think is sinful--how should the church handle that behavior?

  17. Treat them as you would a sinner or a tax collector.  Isn't Jesus' practice in this regard to call them to repentance?

    Isn't there a big difference between shunning (which I take as an active avoidance of a person) and a disapproval of ongoing public sin?  The last verses there are important - the keys.  The church doesn't shun, but it does bind the impenitent.  She actually should treat all sinners the same, just that the sinners who repent are loosed.  The big problem to me that Paul ends up addressing is what happens when someone doesn't repent - continues to live a public life of sin, but continues to call themselves part of the body of Christ.

  18. With all due respect, I don't believe that you can cover over even a single sin, let alone a multitude of them.  So, I guess your answer is that you can tell a sin from a non-sin; but not necessarily a sinner from a non-sinner?  Interesting.

  19. Here's a specific story I remembered from a few months ago.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2012/02/mars_hill_pastor_mark_driscoll_faces_backlash_over_church_discipline_case_.single.html#pagebreak_anchor_2 

  20. I guess you are specifically referring to verse 2:  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

    Hebrews is written to believers.  The admonition seems quite straight forward.  As Abraham was 'hospitable' to the angels, we (members of the body of Christ) are to also be hospitable to strangers.  (Let alone those we know!!!)

    Of course, if somebody is actually a stranger to me, then I have no idea if he/she is a believer or a adulteress or whatever.  So their 'sin situation' is of no relevance here.  Now, if I know of somebody like the person in 1 Cor 5, then I guess they aren't strangers to me and this passage does not really apply to that situation.

  21. Actually I don't think he is "oh so unloving" and "excluding" at all. It is you who believes that some, if not most, will be excluded, not I. Why that is "good news" to you, I haven't a clue. Or do you actually think that what you believe is God's plan to eternally exclude your own unsaved family is "good" for them, or anyone else?

    Just what exactly, are you trusting God to do... restore or destroy sinners?

  22. There is no need to try and distinguish... we are all sinners. Therefore we are to treat everyone the same.

  23. The bible teaches that, in fact, I can cover over a multitude of sins.

    1 Peter 4:8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

  24. The 'unloving' or 'excluding' in this thread has to do with what I per Matthew 18 or what we (the church) do per 1 Cor 5 and not what God does with regard to salvation.  So why you have brought in the 'good news' and 'destruction' of sinners is a mystery to me.

    As far as what I trust God to do; I trust that He will do exactly what He has revealed that He will do.  And, this whether I like it or not.  Thus the discussion should be about what He has revealed and not what I think or you think He has revealed.

  25. I have many strange ideas. I'm not scared of miracles: I could tell some weird enough stories about my personal life. But I think we are too quick to go there. 

    Do you think it is necessary that there was alcohol? Then I wish you would explain what was Jesus' interest in facilitating drunken revelry.
    Whereas you could look at other places where Water comes into the gospels.

  26. You are exactly right; I stand corrected.  I should have cleared up what 'cover sin' meant to you before I commented as I did.  I guess I was thinking of God's work and you were thinking of man's work.  How easily our presuppositions get us (me in this case) into trouble.  Sorry.

  27. "So why you have brought in the 'good news' and 'destruction' of sinners is a mystery to me."

    Because that, my friend, is all that really matters in the end. Or is something else more important to you than your own salvation and that of your fellow human beings?

    And how could we possibly discuss anything other than what we each "think" God has revealed? As far as what you think He has revealed about the eternal fates of your loved ones is concerned... do you like it?

  28. "As far as what you think He has revealed about the eternal fates of your loved ones is concerned... do you like it?"

    As long as we are discussing 'my' understanding vs. 'your' understanding we are going to get nowhere.  Both 'understandings' have to be put under a joint microscope by the two of us until there is only one understanding (probably a third one at that) left standing.  Until that point has been reached; we will just continue to exchange nonsense, IMHO.  For obviously at least one of our understandings is simply wrong.

  29. The Platinum Rule: Do unto others as you would have God do unto you!  What if we are judged the way we judge the least of these? What if we receive the same amount of grace that we give to those least deserving of grace?

  30. What else is there to discuss except how our understandings differ or agree? Since none of this is provable, and no two human beings are ever going to completely agree, it is impossible to arrive at only *one* understanding.

    I simply asked you this: that based on what you currently think - what you believe God has revealed to you in scripture and personal revelation - do you endorse it? If you believe that God is going to eternally torment your own loved ones and other fellow human beings in the "Lake of Fire," as you have told me before, do you like it? Yes or no.

    Have the balls to make a moral judgment on what you believe God is going to do, David. No one disputes that God has the power to do whatever He wants. I am asking you if you endorse and support what you think He is going to do. 

    Make a choice David. I want to know what kind of person you are.

  31. No I don't think it is necessary but I think it is obvious. If you are saying that the people were excited abou clean water - I see that you are too deeply indoctrinated for me to try and discuss this with you, that's all.

    It seems silly to me that you jump from the presence of alcohol straight to drunkenness...

  32. This may be terribly presumptive, but if 2 Cor. 2 Is a commentary on I Cor. 5, at least we know "the rest of the story," and it seems to have turned out pretty well. Of course, Paul didn't have the NT canon to peruse in searching for answers to moral crises in the baby churches he addressed. He did have his experience of the crucified and risen Lord. He was big on hospitality, especially between Jews and Greeks, even jumped Peter for caving in under pressure. Perhaps someday Paul and Richard can dialogue on the matter...all will become clear in the light of love.

  33. David- if you follow that logic to its conclusion, you likely end up at 'ignore what Jesus says, he was talking to jews (not us)' and 'listen to Paul, he was talking to gentiles (us)'.   Scrub the 'Christian' title and call ourselves 'Paulians'.

    IMO Paul differs from Jesus in many areas, and it is difficult to reconcile the two.  We run a great risk of ignoring the son of God and what he _clearly_ said, and possibly being among those who complain that we did many things in God's name but end up on the wrong side of the fence- just because we do not act with love, compassion and solid, practical help to the poor and oppressed.

    Which bits of Jesus teachings do you say 'Yes' to, and why?
    And more importantly, which bits do you say 'No' to and why?

  34. Kinda makes my point. News stories are not written about normal events, but about strange abuses. This pastor is clearly a control freak and has been roundly condemned by other Christians/ evangelicals--not because he practiced 1 Cor 6, but because he practiced it on someone who had repented, simply because they wouldn't jump through the hoops he set. I didn't mean to say that there wasn't any cult anywhere that trumped 1 Cor 13 with 1 Cor 5. I did mean to say that I don't know of this happening at your normal neighborhood church.

  35. Are the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels more authoritative than the other words in say John's or Mark's Gospel?
    Is Matthew more or less God's message than say Ephesians?
    Can Paul's writings, e.g., Colossians, Romans, etc. possibly have an iota of actual conflict with what Jesus taught when He was on earth?
    In other words, is there any part of that collection of writings known as the Bible that is not God speaking?
    OTOH, when you speak to various people, do you tell them all the same thing?  For example, when you tell your children to 'eat their vegetables' (sorry if you don't have any children!) are you also, at the same time, telling your boss what to eat?

  36. Except that Mars Hill is one of the largest churches in America and head pastor, Mark Driscoll, has 140,000 fans of his Facebook page.  He also heads the Acts29 Network, one of the most active "neighborhood" church planting networks in the world; hardly a fringe movement.

  37. Thank you so much for this, Josh.  I am so with you on not worshipping the Bible, but looking to the Spirit Jesus said would lead us into all truth, and letting the Bible be what it is--a record of what happened 2000 years ago.  And love must reign above all.  On that Jesus and Paul agreed.

  38. I think it's important also to realise the wine wouldn't have bee anywhere near as strong as most wines are today, as well as that alcohol isn't necessarily bad (I know some Christians do choose to avoid all alcohol, and that's their prerogative which I do entirely support). The bible condemns drunkenness, but not drinking.

  39. Thanks for blogging about this. It's bothered me for years that Christians use this passage as a justification to treat fallen brethren terribly while they're sugary sweet to unbelievers who they're trying to convert.

  40. Treat sinners the way Jesus treated sinners?  Jesus used a rather wide spectrum for how he treated different sinners.  In some cases, he showed acceptance in reaching out to them.   In other cases, he called them a brood of vipers and called his whole generation wicked and adulterous with apparently little acceptance personally.  The difference seemed to be how stubborn or self-righteous they were in their sin and whether or not they could humbly face their sin, or not.  The Matthew 18 passage means just what it says but there is nothing in it that takes away our need and our freedom to discern the circumstances and vary our approaches in love.       

  41. I have always seen the call to (after the Matthew 18 process has been patiently followed) treat unresponsive sinners as you would a pagan or a tax collector as a call to make a declaration of peace, but perhaps with the condition of parting ways. Our responsibility to pursue them may be off the table at this point and our responsibility to protect the rest of the body from them may be on the table now too. But we are not called to pursue them to punish them further. If trust is broken and they refuse to do anything at all to restore it, then a line may need to be drawn--even a tough line if the circumstances warrant. Paul spoke of putting a man out of the fellowship in 1 Cor 5, and even handing him over to Satan. But there must always be room for discretion considering the circumstances at hand. Paul warned of the influence of yeast on the whole batch of dough. When you must deal with this first hand as we in ministry sometimes must, it is anything but simple.

  42. I think those parable apply to those who have not yet found Christ. As it is, Christians are held to a higher moral standard than the "lost".
    We must also apply the parable of the unequally yoked in regards to this passage if the others are being considered. 2 Corinthians 6:14 states: "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"

  43. In interpreting the Scriptures, we must keep some things in mind: 1st is to let Scripture interpret Scripture. Then the context, background, writer, audience, etc. The Gospel of Matthew is written by Matthew (also called levi), who himself was a former tax collector. He wrote it to jewish audience. Jews don't associate with pagans and tax collector. With that in mind, we can have a good clue as to what, "treat him as a pagan or a tax collector."

  44. Jerus didn't say on the verse, "treat them the way I treat Tax collectors and pagans." He said, "Treat them as you would a pagan or an unbeliever." remember that Jesus is speaking to the jews. Matthew writes to a jewish audience and Jews don't associate with tax collectors and Pagans. Jesus made it clear that when a person CLAIMS to be a believer but continues in sin and ignores what the church has to say, he or she should be put out of the fellowship and be regarded as an unbeliever.

  45. We shouldn't have any religious association with them. That's what it means. What we can do is to be kind with them, pray and love them. But we shouldn't treat them as believers.

  46. We should witness to sinners and love them but I have found that taking them in and hanging around with them can ruin your witness. They steal and lie and try to pull you in the middle of all of it. They say they need a ride to town and then shop lift with you in the store. Do ungodly things to innocent people and want to ease their conscious by telling you putting you in the middle of court and their lies! People can do what they want but I have learned my lesson I can love them and pray for them at a distance ! I don't think I should be seen as an accomplish to their evil.

  47. The treatment of the tax collector and pagan was not to chase after them or join them in their wilderness, it was to make salvation and redemption available to them. Leaving the flock to save one did not result in the flock being at risk, it was a demonstration of a love for all. The scripture is often used to justify saving everyone, the truth is all will not be saved.

  48. God says clearly that if we are offended, we are to go to our brother. Some people will not listen if you only say you are offended to them.

  49. I think the author has not been offended over and over by a family member or a person that will not leave their life.

  50. Jesus was dealing with bringing people to Him. Sometimes the person who offends you is a Christian.

  51. I do not agree with you. I think the Lord is imparting wisdom to his people. I don't think we can make light of Jesus' words - a very dangerous practice!

  52. This comment was in response to The Geekpreacher when he said
    " It is part of what I call my hermeneutic of sarcasm and/or irony. I think Jesus spoke "tongue in cheek" and with a wink a great deal of the time.

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