I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon that we Christians are really good at helping people when they are in a crisis (i.e. sickness, death, loss of job, disaster relief). But when the crisis has to do with a Christian who is in rebellious, unrepentant, and biblically clear sin, we wring our hands, kick the dirt with our heads lowered, and remain strangely silent.
Some may have an issue with the use of the phrase “strangely silent.” After all, many of us have grown up in churches where church discipline has been removed. We’ve been indoctrinated into the misuse of “judge not lest ye be judged” so that holding fellow Christians accountable for their sin is tantamount to being labeled a Pharisee and forgetting that “but for the grace of God” go I. “Who are you to judge?” is the cry, not only of the sinning Christian, but of others who are appalled that we would hold brothers and sisters in Christ to biblical standards of behavior. Silence concerning the sins of our brothers and sisters isn’t really strange at all in our churches.
And to be clear, I’m not talking about sins that we make up as a checklist for holding others hostage…sins like dancin’, drinkin’, smokin’, dippin’, card playin’, and the like. I’m talking about the sins that come from the Scriptures that are clear “thus says the Lord.” When fellow Christians are caught in unrepentant sin, we’ve been given the responsibility by our Lord to lovingly confront these friends for their eternal good.
So why are we slow to hold fellow Christians accountable for their sin?
- We’ve bought into the idea that Christianity is primarily about the individual and not the community. You can’t read the New Testament without coming across the “one another” passages of the writers. We are the people of God, the body of Christ, and we pray to our Father. We live this life together through both the good and the bad. There are times for encouragement and times for correction. Living the Christian life is what we do.
- We believe that the privacy of the individual is sacred. If you’re a Baptist, you grew up hearing about the priesthood of the believer. Because of the indwelling Holy Spirit and God’s Word, we believe that in Christ there is no need for an intercessor between God and man, Jesus is our Intercessor. But Jesus is also the One who gave us Matthew 18 in which He clearly gives the parameters for making public what was done in private. Sin in the individual affects the body. For Christians, unrepentant sin is never a private matter.
- We’ve so softened Christianity that an unrepentant sinning Christian has become somewhat of a norm within the church. If someone prays “the prayer,” gets baptized, and joins the church, we count that a win. And yet, our 21st century Christianity is weak compared to the robust passion for Jesus we see in the New Testament. Church growth has become the goal instead of making disciples. And so the Christian landscape is littered with those we’ve evangelized, but few we’ve seen grow into disciples.
- We’ve succumbed to the culture’s understanding that there are very few, if any, moral absolutes. The church tries to make peace with the culture by taking some of the sting out of the moral absolutes of the Scriptures. No one likes to be told that the things they love, the things that give them purpose, are sin. And so to be more accommodating to the world, we lower the biblical standards of being a Christian. Therefore, what might be wrong for me in my walk with Jesus may not necessarily be wrong for you as you walk with Him. Instead of holding up the biblical absolutes, we dumb them down for everyone, including those who call Jesus Lord.
- We’ve wrongly believed that lowering the bar of Christianity will actually bring more converts. Some may believe that we’ve made Christianity so difficult that no one will want to be a Christian. Or maybe some believe we do a bait and switch by saying that everyone may come to the Lord but once you come, you’ve got to make radical changes in your life. And that’s on we Christians. Jesus said if anyone would come after Him he must deny himself and take up his cross. Better to be upfront with the radical commitment required than to keep moving the line after conversion. And one thing history has taught us, the radical call of Jesus to follow Him resonates with many people. Their hearts long for a cause, for a Person, for whom they are willing to give their all.
- We’ve wrongly believed that biblical confrontation is unloving. In our current culture where we don’t want to upset anyone, confrontation is seen as unloving and unhelpful. When I played high school football, we would often get lots of scrapes. One of the concerns in a locker room was that staff infection could spread through the players. After practices and our showers, we had to line up in front of our lockers for our coach to inspect our wounds. He carried around a can of Nitrotan, an aerosol germicide. All I know is that when he sprayed it on our wounds, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth occurred. It BURNED! But it worked, also. Nitrotan brought pain but promoted healing.
Confronting a brother or sister concerning their sin is one of the most difficult responsibilities of the Christian life. And it’s also one of the most loving. Better short-term confrontation leading to repentance than overlooking sin leading to condemnation.
Tomorrow, I want to look at the biblical benefits for confronting believers who are in unrepentant sin.