As she sat in our living room, she prayed, “Please send people into our lives who will confront us on our sin.”
What a strange prayer. It was prayed by one of our closest friends recently when she and her husband spent some time in prayer with Sasha and me. Earlier in the day we were talking about the biblical response to sin.
To be more accurate, we were talking about the biblical response to the sinner. There are two responses, and it all depends on who the sinner is.
If a person commits a sin and he is not part of the Church, we are not to judge him. After all, we would be just like him if it were not for the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. On the other hand, if he is part of the Church, we are to judge him.
This topic is addressed in several places in scripture, but it perhaps summed up the best in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (NIV; emphasis mine)
Our friends who were visiting that day were dealing with some fellow believers who were behaving in a sinful way. Recently, we have also had to deal with unrepentant immoral behavior by a fellow believer. Jesus outlined what to do when you come across sin in the Church.
If a brother or sisters sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 NIV)
Keep in mind that this is a procedure to be used with Christians only. Those who are not Christians cannot be held to the moral standards of those who have a personal relationship with God. We are not to judge those outside the church, but we are expected to judge our brothers and sisters. As Solomon said in his wisdom, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” (Proverbs 27:6)
This is where we as Christians often make a critical mistake. We are not to judge those outside the Church, and we are to judge those inside the Church. Yet we reverse it. We judge the world as if we are in the place of God, and we ignore the immorality in our midst.
As a result, we fall into a dangerous trap where church leaders slander their brothers and are not held accountable for their actions. Brothers and sisters fall into immorality and we are told that we should just accept them as they are. Greedy swindlers are given places of honor in the congregation. Drunkards are not confronted out of fear that they might not come back to church if we say something.
At the same time we disassociate with those outside the Church who are stuck in their cycle of self-destruction. We avoid those who need us most. We do the very thing Paul seemed to consider ridiculous. We “leave the world.”
I have seen too many righteous men and women fall because of ignored immorality and un-confronted sin. As a body of believers, we need to gently correct those who mistakenly slip in their walk with the Lord. We need to get in the faces of brothers and sisters who willfully disobey the God’s moral law. We need to disassociate from those who un-repentantly continue in immorality.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ should be a gift to us when we go astray. They should keep us on track. This is why I join my sister in her prayer.
“Please send people into our lives who will confront us on our sin.”