Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you…
This counsel seems to indicate that the dispute among the disciples as to who should be the greatest had gone a considerable length, had led to hard words, and even heart divisions. Our Lord made this the occasion for advice in relation to misunderstandings among Christians. It should be distinctly seen that his advice concerns cases of Christians, each party professing strict loyalty to Christ.
I. TALK TOGETHER. Not just at once, while there is heat of feeling; but presently, when both have had time to grow calm, and give room to those regretful feelings which are sure to come when the more difficult passages of life are reviewed. When offence is given, the evil to dread is the disposition of each to stand aloof from the other. This can soon widen into hopeless separation. In common life it is the work of friends to bring such separated ones together; in the Christian life we find Christ expects both the offended and the offender to be seeking each other. Talk in a Christian spirit will often correct misunderstandings, smooth difficulties, and put things straight. But Christ puts the chief burden of seeking reconciliation on the injured one. The one against whom the trespass is committed is to act.
II. BRING PRIVATE CHRISTIAN FRIENDS IN. There arise cases in which the judgment of one party may be blinded; and the correction may be beyond the power of the other party interested. Then it is wise to bring in independent and unprejudiced persons, who may help to unite the disputing parties. This will lead on to a consideration of the principle of "arbitration," and its possible adaptation, not only to Christian, but also to social and national disputes. For such arbitration the men of character and weight are sought. They gain power, in all phases of life, who culture character.
III. LET THE CHURCH DEAL WITH THE MATTER. The point is this - do not make a public thing of private disputes save as a last extremity. There will be different opinions as to what is referred to by the term "Church." Most probably our Lord was thinking of the recognized officials of the synagogue, who formed an "ecclesia," or Church, and acted, on consultation, representatively and authoritatively. Christ says, "Do everything by brotherliness; bring in the officials only as a last resort." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.