3. “Tell him his fault.” The word literally means to “shed light” on his fault. Perhaps this is a blind spot for the person, or perhaps you misunderstood what he said or what she did. Oftentimes, the person might not even know he offended you, which could lead to a quick apology or a clarification of what was intended by the offending comment or action. Nonetheless, the goal is to shed the light of truth on the alleged offense.
4. There are two possible results of the conversation that Jesus describes. The first is the desired outcome. “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” If he “listens to you” means that he has “heard” you not merely with his ears but with his heart, that he agrees with your assessment, and that he asks for your forgiveness. The result is that you “have gained your brother,” that is, you are reconciled to one another. The Lord desires that His family be a family of loving unity. Of course, the other side of your brother’s repentance is your willingness to forgive him. It’s no coincidence that the parable that follows these steps of discipline is the parable of the unforgiving servant (vv. 21–35). The basic story is that a man was forgiven a great debt (think $1 million) but failed to forgive a puny debt (think $10). The key words are spoken by the king who forgave the original debt. “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (v. 33). As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). When we go to someone, we should go expecting success and be ready to forgive.
We are told about the second outcome in Matthew 18:16. “But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “If he does not listen, drop it.” No, our Lord’s desire is for the purity and peace of the church, and the following verses describe the ongoing process.
Finally, the preceding context is very important for understanding the big picture of what is happening in verse 15. These verses have come to be known as the parable of the lost sheep (vv. 10–14). When one sheep strays, the good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to seek the one who went astray. In providing the immediate context, Jesus is showing us that seeking the stray is what He does all the time, and this is how we are involved. As always, the Scriptures expand the perspective of our relationships to include the Lord’s view. After all, if the person has sinned against you, he has also sinned against the Lord. The ultimate goal is not just reconciliation with you, but your brother’s reconciliation with the Lord. If you think someone has sinned against you, please don’t sit and seethe; go and speak to him.