If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV)
Read: Matthew 18
Consider: Why is it that sin in other people often offends us more than sin in ourselves? When we look around society we see people who have no regard for God and who live in ways that dishonour him. The media (television and cinema) portray everyday life in ways that is contrary to how God wants us to live. Newspapers sensationalise people’s lives in a way that holds them up to either praise or ridicule. Other people’s sins are much more interesting than our own!
While we should be concerned about sin in society, we should be more concerned about sin in the church. I’m not talking about sin in churches that don’t hold to the Word of God, as they are probably representative of the attitudes of the world. Where sin should first and foremost be confronted is in churches that believe in the authority of the Bible and seek to put its teaching into practice. That means that dealing with sin must start with you and me! Having been forgiven and being ‘in Christ’, should mean that we are prepared to confront sin in ourselves day-by-day. But what if we are not?
Matthew 18:15-17 gives us a way to deal with sin in the church. Having the courage to deal with sin in this way doesn’t require a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, but a real concern for the spiritual welfare of others. This means that you must be prepared to confront anyone who needs your encouragement to deal with sin, and you must be prepared for others to confront you about things in your life that need dealing with. So what is needed is both courage and humility.
Dealing with sin on a one-to-one private basis should be the norm and in most cases will result in the individual who is being confronted acknowledging their sin and bringing it before God. Most of us shy away from this kind of situation, but remember that is not designed to be harsh, but gentle, undertaken out of a motive of love for the person and their spiritual welfare.
What we might see is someone being offended. Having talked to the person about the situation and prayed with them, be content to leave the Holy Spirit to work in that person’s life to bring about a change.
Only in a situation of wilful sin, a person not listening, should the matter be escalated to involve others (perhaps a couple of elders) and only as a last resort should the whole church be involved. What is needed at all times is an attitude of gentleness and love.
Pray: Father, help us to deal with sin in our own lives and to be willing to get alongside any fellow Christian who has fallen into sin, so that we can encourage them to live their life in a way that reflects Christ. May our attitude always be gentle and may our motives always be out of love for that person and a concern for their spiritual welfare. Amen