“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.” (Matthew 18:15 KJV)
Take him aside just the two of you? You have gained a brother? These actions are very much counter to our instincts. First, if we are confronting someone, then our aim is likely to be to set him straight. We want to show him the error of his ways so that he will immediately implement corrections. Not only is our goal not concerned with gaining a brother, but our goal is usually to preserve accuracy, discipline, and correctness in the strictest sense.
Just to add fuel to this, we may not even be all that interested in this first step of having to meet one on one with this guy other than the fact that we are actually commanded to start one on one. We want to get to the further steps where we get to bring a witness. Maybe even drag his supervisor into this mess so that we can more thoroughly convince this obvious nut that he has strayed from the path. Now we are way beyond obtaining a brother. We just want this guy dealt with.
So, what does this passage really mean by the term “brother”? We tend to think that if we go up the family tree far enough, say to Noah or even to Adam, then we are bound to have the same father somewhere. I actually think this term “brother” may be best defined in an intense conversation that Jesus has in the eighth chapter of John. Re-read this passage. Where were the lines of father to children drawn? That’s right! Not to Adam, but to the devil. Jesus took some time to distinguish sons of God verses sons of the devil. So, our goal in obtaining a “brother” changes. It’s not merely the first step in a legal procedure toward excommunication; it’s the first step because it’s the most important thing that we ought to have as our goal. It is a step to determine the contents of the heart, i.e. belief (see also Romans 10:10); not necessarily a step to determine a technical case. Spoiler alert. It may even realign our heart. The reason the final step, after failing to reach an agreement with the entire church, is to be “treated like the heathen” (see Matthew 18:17), is because by this point the heart is to be searched so thoroughly for a common belief that none is found. It is obvious that there is no brother there to be gained. I would think at this point there is a sadness mixed with the relief of clarity rather than the jubilant victory of winning a great legal case and showing him who actually was right all along.
We still are to love even our enemies (see Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, and Luke 6:35), but it is a very different love than the closeness that you could have had working hand in hand with a brother. Gain thy brother if at all possible. It is in this context that Jesus offers a very great promise.
“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19 KJV)