Why do we hesitate to talk about sin today? The Bible sure has a lot to say about it. In His Word, God calls the lost to repentance and believers to holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24).
Sin is why the world is in the mess it’s in. It separates people from God. It’s the reason the cross was necessary. It’s the target of God’s sanctifying work in believers. Yet we justify our own sin and hesitate to help others deal with theirs.
Monday’s post covered what the Bible says about responding to sin in the world. Believers must respond with both grace and truth. With words of grace and holy behavior, we can point the world to Jesus. We must be a light in the world without compromising with its sinful ways.
God’s Word also gives us specific direction for dealing with sin in the church in a way that brings grace and truth together.
A Real-Life Example
A few years ago, a man and woman joined our church as new believers. They quickly became active in attendance and service. They were dating, but not yet married. A few months later, one of our deacons learned they were living together and the woman was expecting a baby. The deacon and our pastor showed up at their door one night. Our pastor assured them the church loved them, but their behavior was in opposition to God’s Word. The pastor called them to repent and change their behavior. But he didn’t stop there.
The pastor also told them the church would help the man find a place to stay and even pay for it if they couldn’t afford it. He told them the church wanted to help them honor God with their lives. The couple responded with humble repentance. The man packed a bag and left the house that night. Then on Sunday afternoon, the church threw a wedding for the couple complete with flowers, cake, and joyful guests.
This is exactly what God lays out in His Word. Believers holding each other accountable for sin so we might “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Paul Practiced What Jesus Preached
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gave very clear direction about dealing with sin in the body of believers. We have the responsibility to call fellow believers to repentance and holiness. The goals are restoration, spiritual growth, and protection for the rest of the body. (Of course we must first make sure our own lives are right before God. See Matthew 7:1-5. For more about “judging,” check out this post.)
Paul put Jesus’ commands to action with the church in Corinth. A man was in a sexual relationship with his stepmother. He was unrepentant and the church was proud of their “freedom” in Christ. Paul was aghast the church had allowed this to continue.
Here’s a quick rundown of the actions taken, the purposes of the actions, and the results:
- The man was confronted with his sin and refused to repent. (Prescribed by Jesus in Matthew 18:15; Implied in 1 Corinthians 5.)
- With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the church acknowledged the unrepentant sin (1 Corinthians 5:4).
- The unrepentant man was put out of the church (1 Corinthians 5:5, 12).
- The goal for the man was repentance and restoration (1 Corinthians 5:5).
- The goal for the church was protection from temptation and compromise (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
- The man repented and received forgiveness from God and the church (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
- The man was lovingly restored to the fellowship of the church (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
We are Obligated
Believers, we are obligated before God to deal with sin in the church (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). First our own, (Matthew 7:1-5) then with love and grace (Ephesians 4:15), we are to help others reach their full potential in Christ (Ephesians 4:13). True love for our brothers and sisters does not overlook sin, but rather encourages holiness (1 Corinthians 13:6).
How do you think the church in general is doing with this? What have you been taught about this? Are these new thoughts for you?
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Great article Kathy. Clear and to the point. It’s so sad to watch churches today ignore sin in their pews…calling it “love”. The most loving thing any Christian can do is help someone repent and be restored to a right relationship with God. Baffles me how so many churches/Christians don’t get that. I’m sharing your post.
Janet, thanks for sharing! And thanks for this comment: “The most loving thing any Christian can do is help someone repent and be restored to a right relationship with God.” We must keep grace and truth working together to build the body up into maturity in Christ.
I wish that other sins would be cited when addressing discipline in the church. Almost always, people single out sexual sin but what about pride, greed, selfishness, worldliness, legalism, harsh treatment and abuse of authority? The Church never seems to address those sins, as if they’re less offensive to God and destructive others.