God has placed a Word on my heart, and it’s been burning in there ever since. It’s time to put it on paper. It might not be a particularly moving or emotional piece. But I believe it is important.
This may not be the most popular passage to preach about, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a Bible study where the topic was “judging sin among believers.” However, I don’t believe it’s a choice. God wrote the Bible for us to follow, not ignore.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
"When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.
12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” I Corinthians 5:9-13 NKJV
(God is talking about the habitual offender here, by the way, otherwise we would all be in trouble!)
Whatever happened to Christians holding one another accountable for their actions? Friends, we are called to judge the SIN (not the person) of those who call themselves “believers.” This was a command, not an option!
Paul also addressed the Thessalonians about this issue:
13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 ESV
So how are we to go about this? In Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV) we read:
15 “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. 16 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. 17 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.”
This is not an option. “Reproving a brother who had sinned was a positive command under the law. (See Leviticus 19:17). And the Jews have a saying, that one of the causes of the ruin of their nation was, "No man reproved another." – Clark’s Commentary on the Bible
“You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. Leviticus 19:16-17 NASB
Friends, are we going to allow habitual sin and dissention in our churches? Are we going to turn our heads at behavior we KNOW is wrong? How long will we continue to ignore sin in our midst? When will confront it as we are told to do in God’s Word?
Now is the time. We MUST get back to a holy reverence of God, and a sense of real responsibility when we see a fellow believer participating in sin. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We are not called to be the Holy Spirit and judge a person based on what we see.
We ARE, however, called to gently rebuke our brother or sister in Christ, and love them unconditionally. Hate the sin, not the sinner. God has put a responsibility on our shoulders that can be very easy to abuse. Remember that we all need grace. We all need mercy. We all have sin in our lives.
The cost of looking away is far too great. We may spare someone’s feelings at the cost of their souls. Christianity isn’t always comfortable, and conviction isn’t without care.
“Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed… 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:12-14, 16-17 ESV