Confronting Sin in Your Christian Brother
… or sister as it were.
As I have mentioned previously, much of the impetus for starting this blog was to process and write about what I learned during the process of leaving a corrupt church.
Today David, a current member of said church commented on my other blog about what he was seeing there, and I am recommending that he consider moving through a Matthew 18 process of confronting the pastor of the sin of false teaching.
After leaving Bel Air Pres, I wrote a womens bible study, one of the chapters of which included almost all I had learned about confronting sin in a Christian brother, and the AMAZING wisdom of God that is weaved in and our of His instruction on this process.
I am posting it for David, and for you. I should go ahead and post the rest of the study too. It is written in outline form, as it is a track for a discussion and not a book to be read.
The study was entitled Wonder Women Fear God Only.
Wonder Women Sharpen One Another
Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
We are commanded to hold each other accountable and make each other stronger. God has given us a brilliant plan for this that keeps all close by his side.
Because we are fallen and sinful, we will have conflicts. God has given us a model for working out those conflicts, whether they are big or small. We are to confront sin and but work toward overlooking personal offenses.
A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger.
And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
First make sure your friend has actually “sinned” and not just done something that you didn’t like. What scripture have they violated?.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Matthew 18 is the instruction manual on how to confront sin. It should be studied and parsed and restudied. (For more on this read The Peacemakers by Ken Sande)
If your brother sins go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as Gentile and a tax collector.
Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
We tend to confront things in people that we do not like, but to shy away from confronting on sin using scripture. Ironically, both of these can be sin in themselves.
Confrontation is to be for restoration into the body.
2 Timothy 2:24-25
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged.
With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
It is important to note that God is the one who grants repentance. We don’t correct only if we think that the person being corrected will respond well. God tells us just to do it and leave the results up to Him.
2 Timothy 4:2
Preach the world; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Temptation comes in many forms, but the biggest temptation when being in the position of confronting someone on sin is to be come arrogant. Tim Keller believes that in order to confront someone on sin correctly, you have to be as grieved over the sin being confronted as the one in sin should be. That you should bear the burden of their sin with them.
*(There is an exception to this ‘gentleness’ principle for religious leaders who will not repent and be accountable for their sin. Christ, Paul, John the Baptist and countless prophets both taught and practiced rebuking such “hidden reefs, false teachers, scribes, hypocrites, and Pharisees” both harshly and publicly, sometimes calling them out by name and even calling them insulting names. See Jeremiah 5, 8 and 23, Ezekiel 23, Matthew 3, Matthew 12:34, Matthew 23, 2 Peter 2, and 1 Tim. 5:20. This harshness may not have been to turn the hypocrite from his sin [as he would likely have done so during private confrontation or upon his own reading and teaching of scripture if he was a true believer with a repentant heart], as much as it was for the protection and teaching of the rest of God’s people who were being lead by, and being victims of, unrepentant, unconfessed sinners who propagated false teaching. This harsh, public rebuke is only for those who have been entrusted with God’s authority, and use it for their own purposes at the expense of the flock).
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Note that the passage does not tell us not to take the log out of our brother’s eye, but to first deal with our own sin. This process restores both the confronter and the confronted to Christ, pulling all back into unity in Him.
This verse is also important to keep in mind as you examine your motives if you decide not to confront someone on their sin. Are you choosing not to confront them because you do not want to deal with your own sin? Do you love your log?
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift….
…He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are not longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Unity as believers is a natural by product of unity with Christ. It does not require anyone to be forced or coerced. If we have the same love, the same obedience and the same purpose in life, we will be headed toward the same goal and offering one another grace when we can’t agree on one means of getting there as opposed to another.
I am not really a fan of McManus, but he gives a good illustration of the principle here:
The Cause Driven Church
by Erwin McManus
The early church existed with a dynamic tension; it was both expanding and consolidating – growing and unifying. The Bible tells us that first century believers “shared everything in common” and that “the church was being added to day by day.’ We want our church to live in this same tension.
This tension is illustrated by two biblical images – the body of Christ and the army of God. The body of Christ is centered on community; the army of God is centered on cause.
Healthy community flows out of a unified cause – not the other way around. Jesus called his disciples and said, “Follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.” This was not an offer of community. “Follow me and I will give you something worthy of giving your life to” is a statement of cause. But the neat thing is, when they came to the cause, they found community like they never knew could exist. That’s the power of the church.
One danger of the American church is that we often try to offer people community with out cause. Without cause, you’re just another civic organization. You don’t have life transformation.
Jesus said, “I have come to the world to seek and to save that which is lost.” The cause of Christ is accomplished by expanding the kingdom of God…
If Wonder Women is just an excuse to get together and talk, unity will be transient, because we are worshiping Community and not Christ. But if it is truly a means for us to submit ourselves to Christ, to worship Him and to refine ourselves for His service, unity will be unbreakable.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus was God. Although He and He alone had the right to judge and condemn us, He chose to walk among us and even put Himself beneath us, so that we might have a chance at redemption. We, being sinful, certainly have the duty to place ourselves beneath our others so that they might have a chance at redemption. Confrontation of sin in their lives is to be done in such a position of service.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in y our hearts to God.
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
When we became repentant of our sins, God forgave us fully and threw our sins ‘as far as the east is from the west’. When others repent of their sins, and ‘bear fruit in keeping with repentance’, we are to do the same and wipe the slate clean for them.
(A common misconception that arises from this verse and that can result in spiritual abuse in the church, is the idea that we as Christians must forgive all sins against us. Not so. We are required to forgive the repentant as Christ forgives us when we are repentant, and may forgive the unrepentant if we so choose, but forgiveness of unrepentant sin is not required of us, as it is not required of Jesus [who does not forgive all sin]. If one chooses not to forgive, and hold someone’s sin against them as they walk through church discipline with them, one must take GREAT care not to become bitter, proud or to hypocritical themselves.)
As you can see, before we confront a sister on her sin, we have a LOT of work to do on ourselves.
Confrontation is not to be done as a reaction to being injured out of selfish anger, but as a proactive act of service to the one being confronted. We are not to elevate ourselves above others, bur follow Christ’s example and consider one another more important than ourselves.
Remember, you are just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.
If when confronted your sister repents:
2 Corinthians 2:7-8
So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
Matthew 18:23-35 tells us the story of a man who begged for mercy and was offered it, but would not offer mercy to a repentant man who begged him for it. The end of the story was not pleasant for him. Search your heart. When your sister (or your husband for that matter) has shown repentance, do you still hold a grudge?
If when confronted your sister does not repent after going through the Matthew 18 process:
Reject a fractious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Even this is for restoration, so that the person can not be in denial about their broken relationship with God and can be convicted into repentance.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Even if fellowship with a believer is broken, we are to continue loving them and encouraging them to come back to Christ, as we would any unbeliever. Time can be spent with them if it is talking about their potential repentance and restoration to Christ, but that should be the extend of the relationship.
Be wise in recognizing who is your “brother” in Christ and who is not:
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree product good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
So then, you will know them by their fruits.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”
And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.”
If Jesus said that there would be those who even cast out demons and performed miracles in His name, and yet were not his followers, we need to be careful not to assume just because someone attends church, or even pastors a church, that they know Christ. We are called to look closely at a person’s works to find evidence of their union with Christ.
It is important to note that in a healthy Christian community where the Matthew 18 process is being practiced, such ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ are usually prevented from ever getting a foothold in the flock in the first place. When obedience and confession of sin is the norm, one who is unrepentant stands out like a sore thumb.
Scripture tells us that confronting such sheep in wolves clothing will result not in their repentance and restoration into the body but in retribution against the one who confronted them.
He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself;
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer lest he hate you;
Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man, and he will increase his learning.
Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
1 John 2:3-6
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him”;
But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected by this we know that we are in Him:
The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
1 John 5:2-3
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
When trying to decide if someone is a true disciple of Christ, there are two areas to look at to see what their true character is:
1. What they do in a conflict when they have something to loose.
2. What they do when they think no one is watching
Have you ever corrected someone, only to be attacked for it? Were there any signs in their life in the first place that may have told you that they were not actually a teachable disciple of Jesus Christ?
Have you responded badly to someone’s correction of something that you did wrong? Are you a true and teachable disciple of Jesus Christ?