This is the second part in this series regarding church discipline. One of the most heartbreaking things in the life of any Christian is when a loved one refuses to repent of their sin. This is true in a nuclear family and in a church family. Exactly what are we to do when someone who professes to be a Christian and claims the name of Christ decides they want to live like the Devil? What do we do as the Church and what do we do as individuals?
Last time we examined Matthew 18:15-18 and Galatians 6:1 which both teach of our responsibility to each other in the Church.
Our example for this series is “Pat,” a professing Christian who grew up in a Christian home. Pat has struggled in living out her professed faith most of her life. She has now gone away to school and lives out of the area. Over the internet, Pat reconnected with an old friend, “Dan,” and they renewed their friendship via a social networking site. Things quickly progressed between them, and now Pat and Dan are dating long distance. They speak daily for hours over the phone and message each other all day long on their cell phones.
Dan is not a Christian and has somewhat of a checkered past, so when Pat shares her excitement with her Christian friend, Jean, there is little joy in the hearer of this news. Now Christian love has taken over, and Jean has confronted Pat about her developing a relationship with an unbeliever (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1). Jean’s concern and rebuke came in the form of 1 Corinthians 6:14-15, which says:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
When confronting another Christian about sinful behavior, the motive must always be restoration and reconciliation in the relationship. Intentional sin ruins relationships, and to state the obvious, does not glorify God. This is the overriding motive for the confrontation of the sinning believer — the glory of God.
When you set out to confront a sinning Christian, they must actually be committing what the Bible names as a sin. Long hair or short hair, skirts or pants, these things are denominational preferences, not sin. Lying, stealing, immorality, adultery, idolatry, etc. all are sin and must be dealt with biblically.
In Pat’s case, she has been confronted repeatedly, firmly, and lovingly by her friend about this unbiblical relationship. The Word of God has been used to reveal the issues of the heart (rebellion, idolatry) in that Pat steadfastly refuses to end her relationship with her unbelieving boyfriend Dan. Jean has reached the point where she believes that she can do no more on her own. It is time to enlist the help of others.
It is time to take that second step and involve one or two others who believe in the sufficiency of Scripture to solve the problems of life. They should be mature believers who are more concerned about righteousness and honoring God in their obedience to Him than they are the opinions of other people.
It is important that those chosen to add to the confrontation meet this criteria for they may be met with opposition by, in this case, Pat and others she enlists to defend her actions. When such confrontations take place within families it is especially heartbreaking as family members line up on opposite sides of the issue and, sadly, personal loyalties become more important than biblical righteousness!
The person who is confronted must always know that the actions being taken are loving, and there must be an overwhelming attitude of grace and mercy displayed. This does not mean that you acquiesce but that there is no harshness or judgmental attitude coming from you as you confront them. This is difficult the more times you have to go to the person, because our flesh becomes impatient.
The group of two or three is to give the same message as the original person did. Asking questions aimed at the heart is much more effective than making statements at them. Asking questions aimed at their thoughts, beliefs, and desires will help them to engage their mind in the process rather than continuing to live in their feelings and emotions.
Remember that repentance is a gift from God. You cannot nag, scold, cajole, beg, plead, threaten, or wheedle a person into repenting. That does not lessen our obligation to urge repentance and change in the sinning Christian though! We are not responsible for their response, but we are responsible to deliver the message.