Matthew 18 – A Speech and Behavior Protocol?: 'Matthew 18 Illegitimately Used to Control Speech, Behavior, and Thought'

Neither Jesus nor Paul, practiced Matthew 18 the way it is typically taught and implemented in many local churches.

Matthew 18 - Gossip Control?

Matthew 18 – Gossip Control?

Jesus publicly rebuked Peter and called him a name (satan). [1] According to typical understanding, this violates the alleged requirement of Mt. 18 of first speaking privately with a brother with whom you have an issue.  Jesus didn’t take Peter aside and gently try to “counsel him” so as not to hurt Peter’s “feelings” and “offend” him. It was . . . bam . . . there it is . . . an action that feel-good American Church culture is incapable of embracing as biblically legitimate, yet accurately reflects part of Christ’s nature. Christ is not conflicted in His own ethic.

Paul apparently “failed Mt. 18” also because he received a second-hand report (Gasp! something we are allegedly never supposed to do as it violates Mt. 18 . . . supposedly)  from those of Chloe’s house concerning the behavior of people in the congregation in Corinth. [2] Paul did not “go to the source” by talking directly to the offenders and let them give “their side of the story.” He simply believed people talking about other people, and acted on it. Not only did he not go to the source, but he wrote a letter which would have been read in public, based on what he heard in a second hand report: a clear-cut violation of Matthew 18 according to typical applications! He also could never have confronted Peter’s hypocrisy in council as he did not speak to Peter privately first. [3]

The speech-gossip-control template that is so commonly used in many local churches, obviously betrays Christ in intent and application. Matthew 18 is clearly not the absolute and inflexible rule for all interpersonal and relational dynamics between believers and in the ekklesia. It also does not apply to the systemic abuse of people. Systemic abuse of people is to be shouted from the housetops by anyone, at any time. Abuse does not require some layered, managed, and controlled script. Just bring it into the light . . .  period!

Matthew 18 applies (in a very limited way, you will need to read the whole booklet to understand the limitations) to objective, verifiable, measurable transgressions against one another that upset the peace and well-being of the community.  In my experience growing up in local churches, Mt. 18 was presented as covering every conceivable personal offense, hurt, or wound, imaginable.  Supposedly, if I even think my brother is upset with me, I am supposed to go to him and resolve it before I bring my gift to the altar (worship). Talk about a formula for paranoia and introspection! Applying the passage this way often causes problems where none previously existed!

Just because someone claims I have hurt his or her feelings does not mean that I have or that his or her claim is legitimate! What if the issue or the problem is not in what I may have said or done, but in the other party’s hyper-sensitive insecurity? The sin is theirs not mine! There is nothing to talk about “together.” The individual has to get over his or her insecurity, not demand a “Mt. 18 intervention.” This is why Matthew 18 cannot apply to subjective issues of hurt feelings. If it did, we would be doing the alleged Matthew 18 protocol all day long, every day. To paraphrase Proverbs, it is the glory of kings to overlook a matter, not demand a Mt. 18 intervention! We can just forgive and move on. Not everything needs to be some gruesome and convoluted process of “confrontation.”

So often Matthew 18 is used by religious and fault-finding people who are not all interested in reconciliation in the community, but just want to score points about how right they are and how wrong you are. You are under no obligation to entertain that foul spirit under some pretense of a Mt. 18 protocol.

In context, Mt. 18 is dealing with issues of Jewish theocratic jurisprudence: I stole your cow, I stole your wife, I bore false witness against you, etc.–objective transgressions, not subjective feelings. I will talk more about this in the upcoming fourth and final installment in this series.


The Rescue of Matthew 18

The Rescue of Matthew 18

This blog is an excerpt from our booklet: The Rescue of Matthew 18, available in print and electronic formats at

Copyright 2014,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Would you like to partner with us in distributing our materials and perhaps generate some income for yourself?  Please go to for details of our Affiliate program. This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help? Thank you and God bless you.


[1] Matthew 16:23

[2] 1Cor. 1:11: . . . for it has been declared to me; 1Cor. 11:18:   . . . I have heard  . . . The Scripture is the Scripture and it applies equally to everyone. If the “can’t talk” rule is applied, it applies to leaders too.

[3] Gal. 2:11

3 comments on “Matthew 18 – A Speech and Behavior Protocol?: 'Matthew 18 Illegitimately Used to Control Speech, Behavior, and Thought'

  1. that is absolutely fabulous and I agree 100%–there are many misinterpretations done from the synoptics.

  2. Yes, I believe that you are right, and I think Matthew 18 can be used in this unhealthy way.

    I have found that the “protocols” of Matthew 18 sometimes cannot be used at all. What if, for example, I discover, simply getting to know someone, that the person, a Christian, is emotionally, mentally and spiritually unsafe?

    By that I mean someone who doesn’t understand boundaries, is envious, and actually tries to hinder, manipulate and control other people’s lives and relationships behind the scenes? Designating themselves a “mentor,” when you never asked them to mentor you, and in fact, they’re the last person on earth you’d ever choose as a mentor?

    I had such a thing happen, and about three different times, when something arose that bothered me, I did my best to kindly address the situation in private (definitely not safe), only to find that I ended up having to apologize for “hurting” that person’s feelings each time I tried to address something that person was doing that was negatively impacting me; that person never, ever acknowledged having violated me in any way, and then, that person tattled to someone “in authority,” and I found myself negatively affected, even though no one else ever spoke with me about it.

    In the end, I decided that it was so much better to simply avoid the person, and not have any kind of confrontation, rather than try to kindly and honestly address an issue. You can only address issues if the other person is relatively healthy and has good intentions … not if they’re bitter, envious and otherwise unhealthy and have some kind of a selfish design on you. And you do find people with these kinds of issue in the church. Sometimes they’re in the process of healing and getting better, and sometimes they’re simply determined to operate in thinking and in behavior they perceive as beneficial to them and — they’re actually dangerous to befriend.

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