Our goal with this blog is to give you an idea of the books that your pastors are reading. So even though the book we are going to highlight this month is not a new book to our bookshelf, it is one that we have dusted off and brought back out recently.
Caring Like Jesus: The Matthew 18 Project was written by Daniel Ulrich and Janice Fairchild. We pulled this back off our shelf as we were preparing for the Matthew 18 workshop in November. We were first introduced to this book in seminary. Dan Ulrich was our New Testament professor and we both took his class on the Gospel of Matthew. This book provides a rich history of how the Church of the Brethren has interpreted Matthew 18 over the years as well as some biblical insight into how it might be interpreted for us today.
Historically, the Brethren used Matthew 18, and specifically verses 15-20, to inform their understanding of the ban. If the Deacons would get wind of someone doing something that went against the rules of the community, they would call upon the person and give them an opportunity to repent and sometimes require a more formal confession in front of the congregation. If they refused to do so after multiple conversations with the Deacons, they were banned from the community which meant no one from that congregation, including family, could be in association with the person.
This strict adherence to the ban may seem like it is following the words of Jesus in Matthew 18, but the ban was often used in unhealthy and harmful ways. Ulrich and Fairchild argue that when Jesus says to “treat them as a Gentile and a tax collector,” this must be interpreted by viewing how Jesus himself interacted with Gentiles and tax collectors. He treated them as ones who need special attention and more intentional faith education. He ate with them and worked specifically with them. Therefore modern Brethren have moved away from interpreting the words of Jesus as a ban but as an opportunity to re-evangelize those who have sinned against the community. Since Matthew 18 is best read in context, Ulrich and Fairchild breakdown the entire 18th chapter and let the verses on humility, self-discipline, evangelism, authority, and forgiveness speak to the verses on direct and healthy communication in the church. If you put Matthew 18:15-20 back in context with the rest of the chapter we discover that for such a process of conflict transformation to be successful we first need to strengthen our own humility, become more disciplined, seek out the ones who need to be found, be careful of how we use our authority and forgive as we have been forgiven.
This is a great book for all who are looking to strengthen their faith and their walk in a faith community. I would encourage~~any Sunday School classes who are looking for a book to study to consider this one. The back cover of the book reads, “What would it mean if we each were to live out Jesus’ teachings as found in Matthew 18? The result would be a change in our lives and our communities as we lived in the caring way that Jesus demonstrated.” May it be so for even us!
If you would like to borrow the Pastors’ copy of the book, you can sign it out in the West Entrance.