Who indeed is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? So far Jesus has told us three things which signal heaven’s kind of greatness. First, those who have no concern for greatness in their own eyes nor in the eyes of men. Second – those who not only avoid seeking greatness in this world, but who violently oppose that tendency in themselves. And third, those who invest their lives in the lives of the humble.
But Jesus isn’t done rounding out His answer just yet. In a passage that tends to almost always be disconnected from the rest of this chapter – verses 15-20 – and assigned solely to the topic of Church discipline, Jesus opens yet another amazing description. Those who are greatest in the kingdom of heaven, are those who will humble themselves to almost any extent rather then let division prevail between true brothers and sisters in Christ.
Now THAT’S a challenge.
The divine pattern of how to resolve the issue of when another Christian sins against us is rehearsed in wonderful steps here. What fails to get our attention is the context in which Jesus is giving these instructions. He is still answering the disciples’ question of verse 1. And in it He places before us the way in which our flesh must be crucified in this most important matter. For if there is anything we are prone to in unresolved conflict when another Christian has sinned against us, it is refusing to humble ourselves to deal with the larger issue – that we do not have the luxury of being needlessly divided from other genuine Believers. Let’s face it beloved, we don’t value the unity of Christ’s Body so much, that personal offenses MUST be resolved if at all possible. And note that concern here isn’t over simple differences of opinion on non-essentials, it is actual sin.
I do want to be clear here. There are areas of faith and doctrine which absolutely cannot be compromised under any circumstances in order for us to be considered Christians at all and therefore part of Christ’s Body together. That is not the topic here nor can we go into it here. We must have a common foundation such as that formulated in Eph. 4:4-6. The concern of Jesus in this passage is that we can have two brothers (or sisters) in Christ, one having sinned against the other, bringing division between them – and somehow imagine it OK to just let us remain divided. And He is saying – no its not OK.
Look at the chief attitude here: If sin has divided us, even personal sin against ME, I will take whatever steps are necessary to resolve it. This is heavenly greatness. When the unity of the Body of Christ takes precedence over personal grievances I may have with another – no matter how legitimate. When my pride and how “I’ve” been offended takes second place to how Christ’s Body has been affected.
Note that he does not tell us to ignore sin. Certainly, if the sin committed is not such that we see it as a binding pattern in the others life, or we can remain in right relationship with no damage to our closeness, such can be left in the realm of love covering a multitude of sins (1 pet. 4:8). But if there is severance, we absolutely MUST do what we can to recover our unity to the point of involving others; having them examine our own actions, attitudes and motives; if necessary even involving the whole assembly – and perhaps even discovering a false profession which grants an opportunity to bring salvation where it was only feigned. On EITHER part’s part.
Those who are great in the kingdom of heaven don’t stand in the room of the perpetually wounded, and thus self-justifyingly estranged from their brothers and sisters in Christ. They will humble themselves to undertake the most painful steps to recover what was lost. They are more interested in the health and welfare of the greater Body than in their own feelings, agendas, pride or standing. They want Christ glorified.