What do we do when someone in the church sins?
I guess, it would be easy if we were unbelievers. We could just ignore them or we might attack them.
But we are not.
We know sin is too serious for us to ignore and believers are too dearly loved by God to attack.
Which is why Jesus lays down a four step process for us to follow in Matthew 18.
He says, “If your brother sins against you.”
This is the context.
Notice, Jesus says.
So, he’s talking about someone who is a believer.
Obviously, unbelievers are going to sin against you. You should expect that. But this basic process Jesus’ is explaining isn’t so much applying to those relationships, which is part of why we have church membership, again, because it just makes this easier, because we are like, is this person a Christian. They’ve been recognized as a brother or sister by the church. So this is now what, I need to do.
Second, he says.
That tells us he’s not talking about preference either, which unfortunately, this is what most of us get most upset about.
When people do things we don’t like.
It’s not because we opened our Bibles and found a verse that says what they are doing is disobedient to God or anything but just because, they are doing things differently than us. We are like that person didn’t smile when they greeted me and that’s so rude so I need to do Matthew 18.
This process that Jesus is telling us here isn’t for stuff like that.
It is for actual violations of God’s law, and you know, if you are going to follow this process here, you better be able to put your finger right on a verse, in the Bible, and be able to explain how what’s happening in disobedience to that.
That’s a place to start when you think someone sins against you.
Otherwise you know what.
Get over it.
Because, that’s how you should respond to stuff people do, that isn’t sin.
Some of us are so judgmental, and so we are so sure, that we know how everyone is supposed to act, and why they do what they do, and it’s just pride, and so if they don’t measure up to our standard, we are like, their judge, jury, and executioner, and I am saying, that’s now how love acts.
If I love you.
I am going to be willing to have you step on my toes, you know.
And maybe after a while, if you keep stepping on my toes, I will say, hey, you know, that’s not my favorite, you stepping on my toes like that, but if you keep doing it anyway, and it’s not really a violation of anything in God’s Word anywhere.
It’s just you being you.
I put up with it.
I maybe get shoes with steel toes, you know.
But that’s the way love acts, when it comes to personal preferences.
It suffers long.
This process Jesus is giving is about how you respond when another person who is a believer actually clearly and objectively disobeys God’s Word. Not just bothers you.
And I might even add, I think what Jesus is talking about mostly, is stuff we can see outwardly.
With our eyes.
If I think you said something that to me sounds like you were being proud, I might come to you, and lovingly ask you, are you struggling with being proud, but ultimately, if you say, no, I don’t think so, that’s pretty much where it has to end, except for maybe prayer because I can’t see into your heart.
I am not God.
I can’t read your motives.
And so, if someone if I am going to pursue this process, Jesus is laying out, and go to someone to confront them, and they ask me, what did they do that was wrong.
I can’t just say, I feel like you were maybe a little bit unkind.
This is not for stuff you feel.
This whole process is for actual, outward, we can all agree, violations of God’s standard.
Laid out in this book.
Jesus says against you.
“If your brother sins against you.”
And I am just trying to set the stage, so we can look at what to do. But the against you can maybe throw us off, a bit.
Because, maybe, we might wonder, does that, mean that if someone in the church is in a pattern of sin and we know it, but their sin is not directly against us, that Jesus is saying, we don’t have to do anything about it?
Say you know they are committing adultery.
And you are like, well, I am not their wife. So, it’s not technically, against me.
Does that mean, I can just let it go?
For one thing.
This isn’t the only passage about confronting sin. And Galatians is pretty clear. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in a transgression,” not just a transgression against us, here, he says, just caught in a transgression, “you who are spiritual, (or spirit-filled) should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”
Which means, if someone is stuck in a sin that we know about and they are part of this church.
We have a responsibility.
But actually, I think even Matthew 18 assumes that as well. There’s more than one way for someone to sin against us.
One way someone can sin against us is pretty obvious, they just step up and slap us in the face or lie to us, or something like that, but there’s another way someone can sin against us, as well.
It is more indirect.
As a church, we are a family. In other words, we are connected.
And so what happens do you think, if someone is a member of this church, and they are going out night after night, and getting absolutely drop dead, drunk?
It impacts us.
We go out as a church, to witness, and what do people who know him, say?
They say why would I listen to the gospel you guys are preaching, when this person who is part of your church is spending most of his life, wasted?
I don’t want anything to do with that.
And so, in a sense, their sin, even though, it’s not directly against us, they are not thinking how do I sin against this guy, I’ll get drunk, but it’s still against us.
It impact us.
And, as a result, we have a responsibility to do something about it, as members of this church, if we know about it.
“If your brother sins against you.”
Maybe, actually, the way the against you here does help us, is that it tells us Jesus is talking about sins, that are basically private.
This process is not so much for sins that are done out there in the open.
If someone is sinning in a way that is so obvious that the whole church knows about it, while some of the principles here, might apply, the basic process is going to look a little bit different.
The four steps Jesus gives us which we’ll begin to look at in the next post are intended to help us know what to do as church members when we personally know that another member of the church is disobeying God’s Word and isn’t doing anything about it.