If another Christian is overcome by some sin…

March 5, 2007 at 7:28 am 7 comments

The View from the Juniper Tree has been a great experience for me, especially when it provokes the kind of discussion that it has over the last several days.  Traffic to the blog has been the highest in its brief history.  I am glad you are reading it.

Many have posted responses, in fact we average 5 comments per post which is good for a small blog, but it is clear from the emails that come directly to me and conversations in person that many of you do not feel comfortable in posting your replies on the site for a variety of reasons.

Many of you share with Kasey the question he poses on his own blog and his response to my previous post. Here is a paraphrase of his question: Given we are in a battle against unseen forces and that the enemy is winning more than we are because we fight each other, (my premise) what should our response be when decision makers in the churches we attend, are not being faithful to their calling, as we understand their call? 

My friend Damon says in his post the response should be to “pray, pray, pray” and give them the grace we would want given to us.

That is an excellent suggestion and one that obviously is shared by many in the Church today.

Others like Danna says in her recent post, believe that any questioning is judgemental and therefore we are as wrong as the people we are questioning. We need to forgive and forget. She could be correct.

However for some those are insufficient answers because they beg the question.  Assuming we have prayed extensively and honestly about any decision made by those we have submitted ourselves to and yet we continue to believe that the decision(s) are wrong and not godly or motivated righteously, what do we do then?

The Bible is a book about relationships and how to maintain those relationships, so there is ample help for us as we look for ways to do what is right and remain in relationship. Let’s look at what the Scriptures tell us to do.  Galatians 6.  Following a list of the kind of behavior and attitude that is reprehensible to life in the Kingdom and following that wonderful list we call the “fruit of the Spirit”  Paul answers the question, “what do we do when someone is in sin, or sinning, or falling short of the righteousness standard?”  Here is his answer: If another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should go to them and gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.  And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

Decision makers make mistakes and they can be deceived, I know I was one for a long time. Many times over the years, alone and in a group of leaders, I made decisions out of pride, fear, anger, hurt etc.  All fleshly attitudes and all decisions that are made in the flesh are sin. 

So if you believe that is the case in whatever situation you are dealing with, your personal responsibility is to go and confront them.  To go with gentleness and humility, but go nonetheless.

What happens if you go and confront and they will not listen or they will not change?  For the answer to that question we go to Matthew 18.  Let’s pick it up in v.16 which comes after you have already gone once to the person or persons, confronted the sinful behavior and they have not confessed or repented  …if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back so that everything you say may be confirmed by one or two witnesses.

Paul and Jesus both tell us to go and confront the sin, if the person or persons listen and confess then you have redeemed or restored them. But if they don’t confess or repent, then you go back again with others who share the same opinion or people who you think are objective and honest, and confront one more time.

The reason this process rarely happens is simple-we are afraid, especially when those we believe are in sin are decision makers or leaders.  Leaders in churches do a pretty good job of saying “we are God’s men and we are spiritual so therefore we know what is best”.  “You are going to need to trust us because there is a lot you don’t understand”. 

Usually that comes after saying, “we have prayed about this and we are all in agreement.”  The belief is that if things were covered in prayer and now everyone is in agreement then it is not possible to make mistakes.  So since you are just one person, you think “what do I know and no one will listen to me” and so you conclude that the Scripture must not apply in this situation and you keep quiet.

I don’t believe that most leaders intend to be intimidating, they just are.  When they have titles like pastor or elder or principal, or president etc, that is pretty intimidating and so we don’t do what Jesus and Paul tell us to do.  We hope someone else has done it or we have heard that someone else did do it and we notice they aren’t around anymore so we fearfully stay silent and in some cases grow resentful and angry.

It is very hard to confront another person let alone a group of people who claim Biblical authority (especially if you are a woman and the group is made up of men).  But it doesn’t seem that Paul or Jesus exempt leaders from confrontation related to their sin.

The process isn’t easy but its purpose is to maintain and enhance relationships in the Family.

What do you think?  Have you done this without success?  Why do you not go to someone if you know they are in sin?  What are you afraid of?

When we have gone on our own, taken a few others with us a second time and in both trips nothing changes, then what? I will cover that in the next post.

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Entry filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, Friendship, Jesus, Thoughts.

Aiming our guns the right direction. Sometimes you just have to dig another well.

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Damon  |  March 5, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Hello again;

    Greg, thankyou for opening this up is this way; I find this discussion very helpful and important. Thanks to everyone who is sharing; this is a positive forum to share and help each other. Thanks for letting me share.

    I would like to return just a bit to a concept that I think we need to continue to consider; Brad and Justin could probably speak to this better than I when it comes to FBC specifically, but when the leaders and adults have such a difficult time; how do the young adults, teens, “children”, seekers who are part of the church deal with the confusion created. I do not know how many people consider themselves members of the church at FBC, or who go there consistently, but I would think that the people directly involved are a small percentage of the church base overall. Many are people who are seeking answers; many are there with their parents and may want to believe, but this kind of thing fuels Satan’s fire. Greg, you know the demographics better than I and I hope that I am making a point that makes sense.

    As I mentioned previous, this (situation gone wrong) just gives people a reason to doubt; to not believe; to run away from the church and ultimately God. I think we need to consider this, and I would only hope that becomes paramount at FBC and churches in America. We have a significant obligation to the children; one that cannot be over stated.

    I do not know how long we will be a part of this church; our family has been partially divided since all of this began. I would love to leave this church because I feel God is leading me somewhere else; not because I was upset with someone or some group of people within the church. Not that it is not ok to be upset and share the real frustration that comes with a very difficult situation. I am so impressed with Linda, Traci and Brad and how they are working through this; and I to miss you in the leadership role you do so well Greg. I do want to feel ok, if we end up being part of this church for whatever period; I want to feel if I leave this church, I could come to a service from time to time and feel like I am at another home with brothers and sisters coming together to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But, I think after I get through all of my “I wants”; I think the only two of the “I wants” that are really important: I want the children to be spared from long term harm from this and I want God’s will in all of this.

  • 2. Heretic  |  March 5, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    TraciA-
    Good thoughts. I like the way you presented. I especially applaud you for your maturity to realize that you should not confront if it cannot be done in love. I want to give this one some more thought.

    Danna-
    As someone who is currently going through church discipline, I appreciate your comments. I’ve been told so many times to just find a new church, but I don’t feel that God has released me yet. I am surprisingly not angry or bitter. To say that I’ve not been wounded would be a lie. I feel as though I am the subject of church discipline gone awry. We don’t understand the power and authority that is available to us as believers. One thing I know, if I go, it will not be because I am angry or bitter. I will go because the Lord has moved me on or I am excommunicated. I am not unwilling to repent, I just can’t repent for other’s opinions of me. I am not unbroken. I am only still here, because God is good. He’s been bigger than all of my pain.

    Although they would probably say that only adds to my delusion of deception! 😉

  • 3. Danna  |  March 5, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Traci. Such wisdom out of you. Thank you. That was the most honest, sincere and heartfelt comments. . ..
    Heretic. . .I don’t know who you are and I was just responding to Greg’s blog. . .
    I share out of my own hurt and pain only that others might not have to take so long to move on. That is my only reason for sharing. When we left Shelton Christian Fellowship there was no sin involved. Reminds me maybe of Brad’s situation. We not only built that church up from the beginning but later building physically the church as it now stands. We got tired. . . Needed a break. But when the new pastor came in we were not allowed to be an Elder nor part of the leadership. Not allowed to speak into the church and every time we went they treated us like we were down and out in Beverly Hills. The mantel seemed to be removed from us that we carried so sincerely and obediently. People that we loved and thought were friends rose up against us saying something was wrong but they didn’t know what. Our son was dismissed from the worship team, a pain he is still dealing with and has yet to return to church. We gave our best years to serve God’s people, teaching, encouraging, to reach out to the poor and to be the best we could in our community. It felt like it was all thrown back in our faces. This is my point. We were not wrong, I still believe that. There was some real error there with the new leadership. But as long as I let my reasoning and my pain rule in my mind, I went nowhere with God. Only backwards. Once I let it go, then I was able to hear from God again and have a desire to serve Him again. Just be very very careful to guard your own hearts. I regret those wasted years that I spent trying to figure things out. . ..And I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to wait for their victory.
    Traci. . .well put about confronting someone in sin. Do you think it is our culture? I think that we are so proudful (in our culture) that when someone does come to us we could very well just slap them. . . ..*kidding but you get the point*. . . . .That kind of confrontation is absolutely right and wonderful. I wish someone would have come to me when I was floundering in my pain and hurt. . . But unfortunately people, Christians, just ignor us and probably talk about us behind our backs. . .Sad. . . but true. . . I think what you said was a good word for all of us to get out of ourselves and lift up a brother or sister who is floundering. . . .
    I hope that any of you that read this realize that I speak on here because of my own experience that is so close to what is going on here. I love the Scandretts. I also agree that Greg is an excellent speaker as is my husband, Gale. Who knows, maybe there is a minsitry together at some time where the Lord wants to built upon the broken hearted, or an open door for an upper room experience, or who knows. . . . .. Just think of the maturity they have because of what they have experienced. . . .
    Danna

  • 4. TraciA  |  March 5, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Reading Kasey’s blog on thursday put a voice to many of the things I have been thinking and feeling over the last year. What he said was heartfelt and I was glad to see it out there in a public way. Thanks Kasey for your honestly. I appreciated hearing your heart.

    Through this last year + I have experienced a gamut of emotions: frustration, anger (at my dad, at the church, etc), relief, peace, bitterness, and on and on. I have wanted people to pay for what they did. I wanted my dad to pay and after a time I wanted the church and the leaders to pay as well. Pride had a strangle hold around me and often Iacted out of what I thought was the best thing without checking with God first or even at all. I am sad to say that often I responded wrong to the situation and to people because of it.

    And then…… Just when I thought we had gotten past the situation enough to gain perspective my brother was fired (let’s just call it what it was). My first …second… and third reaction was anger! Don’t mess with my family any more! Anyway…as I watched my brother respond with such a godly attitude I was convicted about my own ungodly one. I was sitting in the judgement seat, looking at them with eyes that should have been pointed towards God first and inwardly at my ownself before acting on any of my feelings. I was reminded by Beth Moore in her “Daniel” biblestudy that after walking through a trial I need to put aside bitterness inorder to really be free. This means that I need to forgive and seek forgiveness. I am working on this.

    Ok, now in response to this post. just because I am working towards forgiveness doesn’t mean that I agree that things are ok or that I don’t want things to change.

    First, I believe that Christ calls us to love Him and each other. He doesn’t say sometimes, when we feel like it, or if they are nice to us ( I have a hard time with this). He says love each other. So we need to figure out what love looks like. I think sometimes loving means that we hold our tongue, look the other way, turn the other cheek, etc, but sometimes love means saying the hard thing, standing up for what is right and or confronting a brother.

    I think often it is hard to do the latter because we don’t think it will do any good or because we have tried and have gotten burned. I know Brandon and I felt like that so many times over the past year when we were truly trying to seek restoration and we got no where. It was easier just to stop going for it. Had we stayed in Shelton we would have had to decide what direction we wanted to go. I am thankful that God provided a way out. God removed us from the intensity of the situation.

    Second, I believe that we can do as Christ tells us to do and when we see a brother sinning go to him. However, we MUST be seeking GOD first and LOVING our brother at the same time. Not pretend love, but love that God will give us when we ask. We must make sure our motives and our hearts are aligned with Christ so that we may hear what he is telling us. I think there is fine line between judging and seeing sin for what it is. Sin is out there and we need people in our lives willing to hold us accountable. Just because my husband or my parents or my good friend, Jenn, comes to me with something they think I need to see about myself, doesn’t mean they are sitting in judgment over me, it means they love me enough to not let me continue down the sinful road that I was on. Honestly, I wish there were more times in my life where someone would have said, “stop.” Maybe I wouldn’t have listened, but maybe I would have.

    Third, I that we have a responsibility to stand for what is right and confront our brother when we see sin. It is so easy to look the other way because we are afraid, but it is not ok when we know that God is leading us to say something. Again, we must be seeking God and loving the person.

    Lastly, I have come to realize that I should not be the one to confront in this situation (with the church and leaders) because I am unable to do it with a loving heart towards the people I feel the need to confront. My emotions are to close to the situation and I am sitting in judgement which is not right. So for now I am working on forgiving and being forgiven. I am asking God to show me where I need to be right and praying that He will lead me down his path which leads to restoration and wholeness, not the path that I have designed for myself that leads to bitterness and destruction.

  • 5. Heretic  |  March 5, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Danna-
    I’m not sure if your comments were/are directed at me. But just wanted to clarify that my thoughts and my being here is not here to say any indiviual is right or wrong. I was simply commenting on the principles.

    I am currently walking through the discipline process, and the topic interests me!

    Blessings!

  • 6. Danna  |  March 5, 2007 at 8:50 am

    I’m not sure what “sin” is being spoken of here. If you are talking about decisions that may be wrong or unfair, then I’m not sure that is sin at all. Leaders are put in a position to make decisions that won’t certainly make everyone happy. They have a responsibility to hear from God and base their decision on what the Lord says. We don’t know all the facts nor have we been involved in the decision making discussions so I don’t know how any of us could call their decision sin, if we are talking about that. I’m really not sure here. (Honestly it feels like so much reading between the lines that it does get confusing.) If we are talking about when a brother falls and then go to them to try and restore him, that is another thing and what Jesus was saying maybe? When someone backslides rather then condemn them we try and talk to them, pray for them and do what we can to be supportive and bring them back around. In the case of decision making by church leaders, I believe Jesus taught to say your peace but if they don’t hear you then move on. The Church body is huge. One fellowship is not the beginning and the end.
    Concerning judging others, Jesus said in Mathew 7:1-6 Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not cosider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me remove that speck from your eye, and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your borther’s eye. Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” We can judge situations, people, whatever. . but we better be careful here that we care clean clean clean. . .. Otherwise it comes back to bite you in the. . . . .well, you know. . . And personally, keeping myself under control is a full time job. . . . .
    I also would like to address the current “controversary” at the Baptist Church. I am not sure the purpose of “blogs” but I am assuming we give our opinions. So here goes. The church is not being eaten up by the enemy and principalities and powers of darkness. There are many churches or fellowships I prefer to call them, that have already been through the “shaking” and have moved on to be a victorous and thriving church. It has been my observation and only my opinion, over all the years we were in leadership position and friends in the same position, that this sort of “shaking” happens to every fellowship. Perhaps it is when a fellowship begins to think that they are beyond that sort of shaking or because they think they have the “corner on the market” for fellowship. . or maybe it’s just because they are comfortable in their status. I don’t know. But I do know that pretty much every fellowship goes through this sort of thing. Examining your own heart is really all you can do. To cause a church split or be the leader of such a feeling will end in disaster. . . .I have observed this over and over again. When the heart isn’t right it will not prosper. Humble is the key here. . . Humility to the max. . . . . You absolutely don’t have to be right or prove you are right . . . .No one has to win here. What I believe the Lord is doing is building character and a growing up in the faith. Hey, if we can’t learn to deal with a few fellowship decisions and corrections, how on earth are we going to stand up when our faith is a do or die situation? So for the current decision, God is bigger then that. And He also still loves everyone involved. So seek ye first the kingdom of God. . .and see what happens. It is so much better.
    Just my thoughts. . . .. Peace, Joy and Love. . . .. . They are yours for the taking. Just be careful everyone. . . . and Pray. . . . .. Pray for God’s heart. . . .
    Danna

  • 7. Heretic  |  March 5, 2007 at 8:03 am

    The problem I believe, going through the discipline process is that we should judge others, but the question is how. You pointed out that “if they are of the same opinion.” In the discipline process there is no room for opinions. If we are going to exercise discipline then there needs to be conclusive proof of wrong doing. Evidence presented.

    We are to judge, but we are to judge righteously. God does not judge based on His opinion, and neither should we. If God’s judgments were subject to His opinion then His Son’s sacrifice was wasted. Why? Because God is of the opinion that none should perish.

    Jesus wasn’t saying not to judge, but rather to be careful how you judge. If you are going to judge others based upon your opinion without examining all of the facts of the case, be prepared to be judged in the same way.

    Discipline is needed. Proverbs says he who hates correction is stupid! However, we should not discipline each other on mere opinions, but rather on the truth found in God’s word and evidence that His law has been transgressed.

    The discipline process is to seek repentance. It is not to seek justice.

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