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By coen van Wyk


On an occasion when Jesus was speaking to his disciples he said that if your brother commits a sin and does not listen to you, or even when you once more approach him with one or two others, and also does not listen to the congregation, after you reported the matter to them, then you must treat him as you would treat a pagan or a tax-gatherer.

So, you do nót forgive your brother. Not once, or twice or seven times. You accost him, thereafter take witnesses with you and once more tackle him, and you report him to the congregation. If none of this produces a satisfactory result, then you treat him like a pagan. This approach is prescribed by Jesus (C18, v15-17) in his following words:

“If your brother commits a sin, go and take the matter up with him, strictly between yourselves, and if he listens to you, you have won your brother over. If he will not listen, take one or two others with you, so that all facts may be duly established on the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, report the matter to the congregation; and if he will not listen even to the congregation, you must then treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-gatherer.”

But soon thereafter, and on the same occasion, Jesus surprisingly made a complete U-turn (C18, v21-22) on the issue when Peter asked him:

“… how often am I to forgive my brother if he goes on wronging me? As many as seven times?”

The astonishing reply of Jesus to the question reads as follows:

“I do not say seven times; I say seventy times seven.”

So, on the same occasion; and virtually in the same breath;

·        Jesus talks about a brusque three-tier confrontation and impeachment strategy, followed by banishing the brother to the ranks of the pagans (no forgiveness); and

·        490 acts of loving forgiveness.

Now what am I to do if I have an issue with my brother? I am truly none the wiser after having consulted Jesus’s teachings on the matter.