Hagerstown Church of the Brethren
15 S. Mulberry St., Hagerstown, MD 21740
Phone: 301-733-3565 * FAX: 301-733-3598

"Church in the Heart of the City with the City at Heart"
Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.

Pastor's Bookshelf - January 2017

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.