Matthew 18:15-20 gives us much to think about for our daily lives. To meditate on these five verses alone is worthy of a lifetime. These few verses deal with the nitty-gritty of everyday life and they end with a statement that fills us with hope. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). These are indeed encouraging and consoling words to us. I think of these words when my wife and I pray together each evening. God, of course, is always present to us, always has each one of us in mind, but when we gather together as two or three, to pray, to focus all of our attention on God, he makes himself intensely and personally present to us. He is there. He is in the room with us, listening and praying with us.
This is quite a thought. It is a fitting conclusion to this section of verses, for without prayer, that is, an attitude of humility before God, the admonitions that precede it would be impossible. In the verses before verse 20, Jesus tells us what to do if a brother or sister sins against us and gives three very practical steps to handle the situation. If we try all three of these steps and the person who has sinned against us will still not listen, then he or she has made a choice and we must leave him or her with it. We will have done what God asks of us. We will have done all we could do (verses 15-17).
He follows these comments with a deeper, even more important insight about our duty to forgive. He says, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (verse 18). This is one of the most challenging of God’s admonitions to us. This is where the rubber meets the road for us and our faith in Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is the centerpiece of God’s love for us and it is to be the centerpiece of our love for ourselves and for our neighbors. It is the very heart of love. It is the living action of humility. True forgiveness can only come from our love for the other that is greater than the injury they have caused us, whether that be the intimate “other” of a spouse, or other family members and friends, or the anonymous “other” whose name we do not know. Forgiveness is the imitation of Christ that we are all called to. What he loosed on earth, has been loosed in heaven. He wants us to practice this same kind of love.
Finally, how do we do this? Jesus tells us how. Pray. If two of us agree about anything that is good, and consistent with God’s will, “it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (verse 19). To emphasize this fact Jesus ends this discourse with the words of today’s verse, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” The key here is that our prayer together is done in his name, and all that that name implies. It is prayer that is in agreement with his will. It is the result of our love for him. It is an expression of our humble recognition of our need for him and his grace. Do we not go to a trusted friend, or a loving spouse when we are in need of support of some kind? And do they not listen to us with love and caring concern? All the much more so does Jesus. This is why he is there with us when two or three of us are gathered together in his name. He listens, he cares, and he responds. Thanks be to God!
Lord, help us to recognize your presence among us. Fill us with that blessed desire to come together in our prayers for one another. Give us the grace to be humble enough to know our need and courageous enough to forgive one another willingly, happily, and lovingly. We pray this in your name, Jesus, believing that you are here with us right now. Amen!
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