The Matthew Principle

At the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year I took a few high school assemblies and went over some practical topics for our students. I especially wanted to help our students in their relationships with others and decided to have a discussion on “What to do when you are mistreated.” Since this was an assembly and not a chapel time, I didn’t want to be too preachy so I started looking up lists of ways to respond and the best ways to diffuse touchy situations. It really surprised me that all of the advice was pretty much the same—talk to them, take someone with you, talk to your parents or teachers about it—and I realized that the reason it sounded familiar is that it came straight out of scripture. Once I realized this, I decided to forget about sounding too preachy and just tell them the truth.

What I came up with is the Matthew Principle in flow chart form.Matthew 5:38-41 (ESV)

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV)

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

A few additional observations:

  • Matthew 5 only leaves you one option when dealing with an unsaved person—be nice.
  • Matthew 18 only leads to two conclusions—restore the friendship or treat them like an unsaved person.
  • If you treat someone as a heathen, according to Matthew 5, you must be nice to them.
  • If something isn’t important enough to talk to the offender about it, it’s not important enough to talk to anyone else about either.

About Jeff Postlewaite

high school principal since '07, father since '04, teacher since '03, husband since '03, sound tech since '96, UVA fan since '92, gadget junkie since '89, Christian since '88, Giants fan since '84, golfer since '83, brother since '83, human since '81

Posted on August 4, 2011, in Biblical Thought and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Cool chart! (Does that also make me a nerd?)

    Not sure Mt. 18 should come into play every time someone offends me. Most of the time when I’m offended, I’m in the wrong. Being offended isn’t the same as someone sinning against me. Just a thought.

  2. Well, you said “mistreat,” not offend. My bad. 🙂

  3. Jacob, no, liking the chart does not make you a nerd…but is probably a good indicator. 🙂
    And I could get used to this whole answer your own question thing.

  4. The difference between being offended and really being mistreated is really interesting, Jacob. Maybe this chart should start with “Am I really being mistreated?”
    Get over it———————-Why?
    —————-I’m in the wrong——–he’s in the wrong
    —————–make it right———-Is he a Christian?

    Formatting a flow chart in text only is very difficult.

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