Churches are famous for their complaining.  And not just in church circles.  In speaking with an atheist friend, they stated that church people complain more than any other they know.  And what’s more, they don’t just complain the most but they fight the dirtiest.  A person working at a local business told me once, “I would much rather argue with anyone in my office than with anyone at church.  Church people always fight dirty!”

Paul knows this well and faces it in today’s text.  The people are upset that he is breaking the law, so the church leaders suggest that he prove his righteousness by following a Jewish purification rite.  Paul agrees and does, which should appease the angry church people, right?  Wrong.  During his purification at the temple, he is grabbed and beaten for his “heresy” of bringing the gentiles into a saving faith in Jesus.  He is saved only by the Romans who just want to keep the peace and put down a riot.

How do we deal with complaints in the church?  Especially when there are so many?  Especially when appeasement is impossible?  How did Jesus suggest we deal with complaints?  First, they speak with the person about whom they are complaining.  To speak with anyone else about the issue is gossip, one of God’s most hated sins.  If the person refuses to even talk about it, then they verify with another person.  There must be 2 people agreeing with the complaint for it to even be taken seriously by the greater body.  This may be the genesis of the tendency to claim that “a group of us believe…” when the truth is that it is simply one person’s opinion.  If both are ignored, then the church leadership is brought in, and finally it goes to the church at large.

The Jews of Paul’s day did not follow this method commanded by Jesus in Matt. 18.  Neither do church people today.  And that is one of the reasons we have such a bad reputation in the community, not known as people of love and grace but as people of criticism and judgement.

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