Here is today's message based on Matthew 18: 15-20

‘Do I have any spinach in my teeth?’
‘Does my breath stink?’
‘Does this dress make me look fat?’
‘Do you think I’m out of shape or should I start to color my hair?’
‘Whadaya think my chances are of getting a date with her/him?’
‘Did I say something I shouldn’t have?’
‘Was I being obnoxious during the party tonight?’

These and other similar questions can usually be put to certain persons in our lives.
We do not put them to the most blunt or unrestrained person who you might know.
No, these kind of questions and the honest answers we seek can only be asked and accepted from….someone who loves you and whom you trust.

When someone who loves you tells you something, the first thing you know is….it’s the truth.
Someone who you cannot trust might say negative things for many other reasons.
Jealousy, or payback for when you insulted them, or to make themselves look better.
But someone who loves you will give the straight scoop because they care about you.

When someone who loves us says something true, we also know its for our own good.
They will tell us the God’s honest truth, not to belittle us, but to alert us of something.
To give us a heads up so that we can hopefully try to correct what is wrong if possible.
Because many times we are just blind to how we appear or what we say or do badly.

The truth of the matter is,….you know someone loves you when they tell you the truth.
I know my wife loves me cause she tells me the truth all the time…..
‘That’s not the right shirt to wear tonight; your clothes don’t match’
‘You don’t put a semi-colon there, you put a comma’.
‘Your voice is too loud and carries….talk more quietly’
‘We don’t buy that cheap bacon anymore, right?….only Oscar Mayer’

So we have this Gospel reading where it says what to do if another sins against you.
It says go to them directly and tell them the truth of what they did wrong.
Then, the person can do one of two things - either admit to it,… or refute and deny it.
If they deny, then the best avenue is to get another to be a witness to your exchange.

This passage was designed to help maintain order within a church’s congregation.
It is another way of exercising Christian love within the context of a conflict.
And so, in that vein, it says when one is in the wrong they need to be told about it.
That then will open the possibility of changing the bad behavior and of reconciliation.
The same thing holds true whether in a church, marriage, family, or friendship.

You know who tells us the truth all the time? God does.
God tells us, not in specifics but in generalizations that we can easily apply to our lives.
God gives the Commandments to tell us the truth of how to relate to God and others.
God gives specific truths throughout the bible that point to failures in how we live.
God sent the prophets, who spoke the truth to ancient Israel and still do to us today.
Today we heard from Ezekiel who was sent to tell the people the truth of their wrongs.

God also gives examples of people behaving badly which often fits our own behavior.
They can be minor characters, like the rich man who ignored the beggar at his gate.
But also famous people, like Adam and Eve, Abraham, King David, Saints Peter and Paul.

Adam and Eve had to be told the truth of how they disobeyed God and sought to take his place of being in charge.
Abraham had to be told the truth of how it was wrong to doubt God.
David was told the truth that he was a bad father much of the time and that he was wrong to have committed adultery with his loyal friend’s wife.
Peter was told the hard truth that he abandoned Jesus when he was arrested and then denied him when questioned about being his follower.
Paul eventually learned the truth from Jesus after he persecuted the church and had Christians arrested, and approved of the disciple Steven’s being stoned to death.

God tells you and me the truth when we hear these and other stories and look at them, not passively as observers looking through a window at other’s wrongs. 
But when we consider that these stories are God’s truth to us and see them as like we’re looking in a mirror.
In these and other stories we need to see how God telling us the truth about ourselves.

But, just like anyone else who loves us, God does not do this just to chastise us and make us feel lowly,…but to improve us.
When we understand and accept that’s what’s going on in these stories,… then we understand and accept that God tells us the truth because he loves us.
Loves us in a way that is not all soft and mushy, but strong, and real, and honest.

Just like when we accept the truth from someone who loves us,…..
when we accept the truth from God, we begin to be more honest with ourselves. 
We see that it is a truth spoken in love that first corrects, then forgives, and then moves us closer to him.
In each story of those bible characters I mentioned, God corrected them,…forgave them,… and the two became closer after the truth of the wrong was acknowledged.
Those people loved God/Jesus even more,….appreciating God’s truth telling to them.

The Psalmist passage today tells how he appreciates and even loves to be told the truth by God.
Teach me O Lord the way of your statutes….”
“Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it”
“See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life”.

God gives us life,….now and in the future.
He tells us the truth of that life in hereafter, but also tells us a truth to live by today.
Thanks be to God!
Amen