So, my past few posts have been about judging and how we deal with sin in the world around us, and the conclusion we reach within Scripture, specifically the Gospels, show that it is not our responsibility to judge the world or those outside of the church body. As I discussed before, Jesus stated that if we judge others, that same judgment comes back on us (Matthew 7:1-5). Paul warns us that when we judge others, we need to first remember that we ourselves are sinners and worthy of judgment (Romans 2:1-3).
However, there is a point when it is appropriate to pass judgment on other people, but it is only with those within the Church community. But we must be careful. This type of judging must follow specific guidelines, otherwise we risk falling into the trap of feeling self-righteous and being condemned for our own sinful behavior.
Jesus speaks of the steps to be taken in Matthew 18. He states, “‘If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him-work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.'” (vv. 15-17; The Message)
Some translations state that if the believer who has sinned will not listen to the church regarding their sin should be treated like a “Gentile and a tax collector”. In other words, treat them like an outsider, a non-believer.
Paul gets a little more serious when it comes to sin within the church. He tells the church in Corinth that while it is necessary, because of the state of the world, to live with sinners and associate with them (and let’s not forget that in order to save the unsaved, we must live among the unsaved), we are not expected to associate and remain associated with those who claim to be Christians yet continue blatantly in their sinful ways without there being any hint of repentance or remorse in their lives.
Paul puts it like this, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-not at all to meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you no to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-no even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.'” (1 Corinithians 5:9-13; ESV)
Eugene Peterson translates it this way:
“I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decided when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.” (The Message; emphasis his)
As you can see, it is expected for believers to confront one another when those who claim to be Christians re-start a life of sin, or those who have taken the name “Christian” but continue in their sinful ways without any sense or hint of remorse or repentance.
Paul even continues to say in the sixth chapter of First Corinthians that if there is any issue at all in the church that breaks any type of law, we should take before a court of believers, not the court of law.
Church discipline in all forms is lacking in our world, and it’s something that needs to be brought back. If we can’t handle our own affairs between ourselves in a fair and civil manner, how could we even dare to expect God to let us handle the things that are key to His Kingdom.
Friends, brothers, sisters…church…begin to settle disputes between yourselves, within the community believers, as laid out in Scripture. Learn to be wise in Christ, and if you lack wisdom or are unsure, ask God for wisdom. He will definitely grant it, and will not be mad for coming to Him for help (James 1:5).
Be blessed, friends.