The text. “If your brother has sinned, go and take it between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you’ve won over your brother. But, if he doesn’t listen to you, take one or two people with you (…). If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if he also refuses to listen to the Church, let him be like a pagan and a tax collector to you ” (Matthew 18, 15-17).
The context. Jesus delivers this device of fraternal correction as his disciples question him on how to access eternal life. He preceded it with the parable of the lost sheep (“If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine to go and find the one that has gone astray? “). Then comes the deployment of this “disciplinary procedure”.
The chapter concludes with the absolute necessity of forgiveness. This narrative organization demonstrates “The theological necessity of doing everything to find the lost one” on the rule, analysis Daniel Marguerat (1). “The rule does not prescribe what to do about the sinful brother, but what behavior to adopt. The seriousness of the sin committed is not the decisive criterion, but the safeguard of the fraternal bond ”, believes the theologian.