In the last two posts I have talked about addressing both personal/private sin, and addressing public sin. Now I want to step back and examine why we should even address sin, and what the purpose of going through these steps should be. Addressing sin is messy business and can actually divide and strain relationships unless it is done correctly.
Why should we address sin?
Because God’s word makes it clear that sin is a division between us and God and we were created to have relationship with him. We need to get right with God and do all we can to live righteous and holy lives if we are truly seeking a life with God.
What is the purpose for addressing sin?
There are three purposes I see in scripture. 1) Protection of the church and family of God and seeking to keep that body pure (Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5:11), 2) Presenting a proper image of relationship and holiness to non-believers (Romans 12:17, 2 Corinthians 8:21), 3) Leading the sinner back to repentance and a right relationship with God (2 Thess. 3:14, Titus 3:10).
If we do not understand the purpose for addressing sin, or are only addressing someone’s sin for one or two of the purposes and not all three purposes then we need to stop and reassess before going any further because we are likely going to hurt others and cause division in God’s family.
One of the big errors I see leaders and churches making in this is leaving out the third purpose of bringing that sinner back to a right relationship with God. The process of addressing sin and removing them from the church can be so painful and messy that no room for reconciliation exists, and the church family has had such a bad picture painted of the sinner that they would not openly welcome the sinner back into the flock.
I will be blunt here, we are a family! God made us to be his children, when we believe we are a part of God’s family and are his children. You may have differences of opinion with your siblings, cousins, aunts, fathers, etc., but that can not change the fact that you are related. When we tell someone they are so sinful and so rebellious that they are no longer allowed to be a part of the family that is a very hard line to take, but we HAVE to leave that door open for them to return. We have to provide a way for repentance and restoration.
Why do I say that? Well imagine God’s response when you stand before him at the end of your life and he asks why you didn’t allows John or Mary to reenter the flock and be restored, afterall the person was his child and wanted to come back to him. God wants each of us to be in relationship with him. He deeply and passionately desires for relationships to be right, healthy, full, life giving, and restored. It is only through him that things can reach that point, but if we are not willing to work with others to allow them to return we are playing God.
Before you move forward with addressing sin take some time to make sure you don’t have sin in your own life that is making this situation worse, that you understand the reason you want to address the sin, and that you have clearly thought through all three purposes for addressing the sin, including how this person can repent and be restored after they have been removed if things go that far.