Too often, I am offended. Sometimes it is intentional, sometimes it is unintentional, and sometimes it’s simply because I need thicker skin. It hurts. Whether the wounds are from a friend, an enemy, or someone in between, it burns deeply.
Jesus knew we would deal with offenses. He urged us not to lash out and seek revenge, but to turn the other cheek. But within the Church, He also provided clear guidelines on how we should handle being offended by another’s sin. Sometimes, the best way to preserve peace is to protect the purity of the Church by calling out sin in love and encouraging one another to repent. Instead of simply cowering and sweeping it under the rug or lashing out in a public, holier than thou attitude, Christ calls us to confront sin with compassion and confidence.Instead of simply cowering and sweeping it under the rug or lashing out in a public, holier than thou attitude, Christ calls us to confront sin with compassion and confidence. Click To Tweet
Christ urges us to address sin, not simply hurt feelings.
“If your brother sins against you” is the qualifier for if this applies to your situation (Matthew 18:15, ESV). We shouldn’t stir up problems in the church by creating problems over misunderstandings. Our own motives need to be examined. Are we seeking to protect the purity of the Church or to justify our hurt feelings (and maybe our uncharitable responses to those feelings)? As you evaluate whether or no you need to confront someone over an offense, put yourself in their shoes and try to evaluate if there’s truly sin that needs to be repented of or simply a misunderstanding. If it is the latter, try to extend the grace you would want extended to you and overlook it.
Start by addressing it privately
Avoid giving in to the sin of gossip by addressing directly what is happening directly to the offending party. Don’t try to justify gossip by trying to hide it in the form of asking several people for “advice” in the form of venting your anger. Be directly, but loving go to the person who offended you and tell them the fault you see. This not only is a compassionate way of allowing them to make things right privately but also allows for you to see if there was any way you were in error.
Speak the Truth in Love
If we are trying to urge another member of our Church family to repentance from sin, we need to be motivated by a place of love.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16, ESV
Motivation from our own insecurity, a desire to remedy our hurt, or to put someone in their place is a wrong motivation. Love that seeks to restore must always be our motivation for confronting someone about sin. Our desire to speak truth must be done with a hope of restoring the offender to full unity. As you address someone who has offended you through their sin, do not seek to attack but to bring healing and unity and harmony through your talk.Love that seeks to restore must always be our motivation for confronting someone about sin. Our desire to speak truth must be done with a hope of restoring the offender to full unity. Click To Tweet
If They Don’t Repent, Bring in Others
Again, the principle Jesus gave is to start small, hope that repentance will be expressed then but if it isn’t, widen the circle and ask two or three people to join you in urging the offender to see repentance and restoration. If even that fails, widen the circle and bring in your entire church to help compel them to flee from sin and embrace the forgiveness and love that both Christ, and yourselves as the Body of Christ, stand ready to offer.
Seek the Purity of the Church
Ultimately, Christ makes it clear in Matthew 18 and Paul echoes in 1 Corinthians 5 that we need to seek the purity of the Church, hopefully through repentance but also through exclusion if necessary.
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 Corinthians 5:12-13, ESV
When someone refuses to repent, they separate themselves the Body of Christ and are no longer a part of the visible Church. While this is especially difficult in our modern culture which emphasizes tolerance, it is an act of mercy, both on the Church and the offender. To allow the offender to continue on in unrepentant sin would signal to themselves and the rest of the Church that this is acceptable to God. It is not.
In fact, Paul was writing in 1 Corinthians 5 about the Church’s acceptance of sin and failure to root it out of the Church.
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. – 1 John 3: 6-9, ESV
To allow someone to continue on in sin and in Church without repentance signals that they are apart of the family of God when they are not. It is dangerous for their soul to allow them to oppose God while claiming His promises. While it is painful, it is more compassionate to be honest and pray earnestly for their repentance and restoration into the Body of Christ.
Sin is a hard issue to tackle. It requires humility and love that does not often come naturally. As we work to protect the purity of the Church, we need to guard our hearts against the sneaky sins of pride, unforgiveness, and hypocrisy lest we step into sin while attempting to eliminate it.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1, ESV
Be willing to do the hard work of restoration, because no matter when repentance occurs, restoration often is hard work, but also the work of watching yourself and protecting yourself from temptation.As we work to protect the purity of the Church, we need to guard our hearts against the sneaky sins of pride, unforgiveness, and hypocrisy lest we step into sin while attempting to eliminate it. Click To Tweet
Protecting the purity of the Church requires loving compassion but also conviction.
Sin is a serious issue. It is so serious, that Christ gave His very life as an atoning sacrifice and called us to live apart from the world as a holy people. But just as Christ was quick to forgive, so we need to stand ready to forgive the offenses of others.Be willing to do the hard work of restoration, because no matter when repentance occurs, restoration often is hard work, but also the work of watching yourself and protecting yourself from temptation. Click To Tweet
However, like Jesus to the women caught in adultery, we need to proclaim a message of “Go and sin no more” along with the message of forgiveness. To either offer forgiveness without repentance and a change in life or to push for holy living unmarked by the forgiveness and love of Christ is to deny the Gospel He called us to share.
In this and every area, may we be marked as people who are, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 103:8, ESV).