Jesus taught a direct approach to dealing with relationship issues that progressed from the one on one approach to going before the ekklesia.
If someone is not complying with the goals of the group, go to the person, one on one, and talk about your concern. “I need your help. Maybe I’ve misunderstood what happened. My goal in this is to make sure we’re on the same page and mission in our efforts as a group.”
More often, people do the opposite. They speak their fears and hurts to anyone and everyone in the group, seeking their own validation and setting up the group to be biased toward their argument or agenda. Then everyone gets angry. Peace flies out the window. Good luck trying to work things out from that point.
If the one to one approach doesn’t work, bring others who have the objectives of the whole group at heart and discuss the issue further—peacefully. If no agreement can be reached and the goals of the group are not honored, then take it to the whole body, i.e., the ekklesia.
The way translations of the Bible insert the term “church” for this Greek word makes us think this is all about religion. But Jesus wanted unity and harmony to take place among all people, even outsiders to the religious tradition. The word ekklesia means an assembly of the peopleconvened at the public place of council for the purpose of deliberating. An assembly of people who have the same concerns or goals could be a bridge club, a neighborhood association, a basketball team, one department of a business
Jesus said the same thing in Matt. 16:19 – “I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (which I refer to in my book In Living Color: Heaven as unity or harmony among all creation) – whatever you bind on earth will be bound in the heavens, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in the heavens. I explained Matt. 16’s binding and loosing in a previous blog post.
In this case to bind is to do something, to set a boundary designed to clarify the objectives of the group and holds them together. The word earth could be more like a metaphor for the group itself, as one of the definitions for the Greek word is “a country, land enclosed within fixed boundaries.” Most groups have fixed boundaries that define their goals and objectives.
To loose is to unbind what is fast bound. You can redefine boundaries or you can let some of the established boundaries go if that appears to be appropriate. However, this phrase about binding and loosing comes after Jesus said, “Let him be to you as a man of the nations, i.e., an outsider to the group (the Greek term originally had nothing to do with religion, so to say “heathen man” is forcing religion into the passage), or let him be as a tax-collector (someone not well-liked because he appears to oppose the group’s desires).”
How can harmony and unity exist in a group if one person doesn’t agree to follow the group’s goals and objectives? One bad apple has the potential for spreading disharmony among everyone. Except I don’t think Jesus meant “excommunicate” them. Remember that Jesus, in his own way, was disrupting the harmony in the status quo of “the group.”
“Let them be to you like someone who isn’t in agreement with the group’s objectives.” The foreigners and tax collectors weren’t thrown out of Israel. They continued to live as part of the community. They were simply not included in the group’s activities because no one likes a party-pooper. It’s okay to disregard people who don’t have the same goals as the group in the same way a mature parent disregards the tantrums of a toddler.
You can’t help someone come to completion (maturity) as a child of God through formal rejection or ultimatums. You can’t convert a terrorist into a law-abiding citizen of the community through ultimatums or fear tactics. Fear feeds fear. When will we ever learn? You can only help people come to completion when you gather together in the name of Christ to discern the best way to live in unity with all people. Chapter 2 in my book on the Lord’s Prayer speaks to how one’s name refers to the nature or character of that person. To gather in Jesus’s name is to gather in goodness and love to bring unity and harmony (the kingdom of heaven) to all.
If a group’s goals are in line with Jesus’s goals of unity, harmony, and love for all people – we can be assured that his Spirit is in our midst.