Promote Peace by Confronting Sin Biblically.
Had some good questions people have raised. One question was raised in terms of address everyone involved and I had made the statement that if people were not affected by what you did, then you don’t need to approach them. There may be somebody you’ve wronged who has a right to know. They may not be aware they’ve been hurt. And the example being given, if one spouse has been unfaithful, I don’t think that’s something you can just settle between that spouse and the Lord, because they’ve broken their marriage vows and the other person has a right to know, to deal with it, and to forgive. So, you have to address everyone who has a right to know. Someone else said, well how much detail do you need to go into. And of course, sexual sin is where this is the most sensitive. General observation is the guilty party wants to reveal far too little, and the innocent wants to know far too much, that you need to admit in biblical terms what your sin is, but it’s not profitable to describe details which are inappropriate and unnecessary. The nature of the relationship which you’ve done. I mean there’s a difference between how far have you gone. There’s a difference between kissing somebody and having intercourse with somebody. But the other explicit details are harmful, hurtful, unprofitable, and sometimes the victim, because he or she is insecure, they wanna know what does this person have that I don’t have, what does this person look like, what do they weigh, what color hair do they have, what body features do they have or whatever else. It’s not the point. It was a sin against God and it was unfaithfulness to a promise in marriage. And these other details are harmful. In this section, we’re covering a lot of the topics that are important for us to cover in the main basics course that we’re gonna be talking along with peacemaking and this is also gonna bring us in this next hour into church discipline so there’s gonna be some overlap. We’re not gonna go separately through the entire church discipline outline ’cause a lot of it is overlapping with this. Also, we’ve been dealing with confessing of sin both to God and to others. As we seek to make peace, there will be barriers to peace.
Be willing to receive correction from others.
- Prov 15:32
One thing I think each of us has to ask ourselves is that am I a person who receives correction well. We’re gonna talk about you need to go to your brother, your sister, when they are wrong, a lot in the proverbs about this, Chapter 15. Says he who listens to life giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. So are you correctable, that’s Chapter 15 verses 31 and 32 in the book of Proverbs.Pride destroys peacemaking. Instead we should be making efforts towards peace, being slow to anger, being humble.
Love sometimes requires you to go and show your brother his fault.
- Rom 15:14; Lev 19:17
And then, the other side of peacemaking is to pursue peace by confronting sin in a biblical way. Jesus said first get the beam out of your own eye but it doesn’t end there does it? Once you have gotten the beam out of your own eye then you can get the spec, the splinter, out of your brothers eye. And in love, often requires that you go and show your brother his fault. You shall not hate your fellow countrymen in your heart, you may surely reprove your neighbor, Leviticus 19 verse 17. And every believer has this responsibility. It’s not just the job of the pastor or pastors or elders or officers of the church, all of us in the community of believers have this duty to one another. The verse we’ve quoted so many times in Romans 15, it’s the entire congregation which is full of goodness, full of all knowledge, able to admonish one another. Galatians 6, brother and even if anyone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual restores such a one in a spirit of gentleness. So we can’t sit back and hope that someone else will do this. And this is the thing I think that we need to be teaching in our churches, that we have a responsibility in a positive way to be brother keepers and sister keepers when we see someone falling into sin. You can’t hang back and wait for them to come to you.
Now this is hard work. This is not easy or enjoyable sometimes and people don’t always like being confronted. It’s something you do in love and in faith. We’re gonna talk in Matthew 18 about how if your brother is sin go to your brother. And this needs to be said, you don’t send him a Facebook message. You don’t send him a text on his phone or an email. Ideally it’s face to face. At worst a telephone if you’re separated by many miles and can’t arrange a face to face meeting. But if you’re going to be confronting sin, so much miscommunication can take place. So many people have written emails, they’re mad and they let it fly, and you say things in an email you would’ve never said looking that other person in the eye. Or even if you tried to say it very well, looking eye to eye, expressing your care for this person, hugging this person, affirming the relationship can’t be done over phone wires very well and certainly not with emails or other electronic messages. So go in person, also gives you an opportunity to clarify any misunderstanding of what you may have said or written. Some people I’ll even say, okay, write it down, and then hand it to them and talk about it. If you feel like you have to write it down to get your thoughts together, but don’t just send it to them. I think that’s maybe our temptation, is I know I have to do this so here and then you run away. No, be a man, be a woman, and go face them in love.
Well which sins need to be confronted? Not every little thing. I think the bible gives us some guidance there. In 1 Corinthians 5, which is another important text on church discipline, it says, it’s actually reported among you that there is immorality among you and immorality of such a kind that does not even exist among the Gentiles. That someone has his fathers wife. And then later he says I actually wrote to you not to associate with any so called brother if he is an immoral person or covetous or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or a swindler, not even to eat with such a one. And so, the problem that Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 5 is that if a member of your church is acting in an immoral way or covetous, drunkard, swindler, idolater, that is reflecting on the entire community, which reflects on Christ. And we need to be concerned about His reputation.
He has a passion that His church be pure. A person who calls himself a Christian and is cheating people in his used car lot, or in his insurance or investment business, is troubling the reputation of the church to the entire community. I actually got a call one day from a pastor friend and he said one of my deacons is on the front page of the local paper today, but it’s not good, he’s been caught embezzling. The church has to take action as well. So sins which can damage the Lords reputation, sins which endanger the purity and unity of the church. Paul warns about those who cause dissensions. He also warns about a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. So if you have someone in the church, and this can also be a doctrinal issue, we talked earlier about differences of eschatology but we actually had in our church at one time two people who claimed that Christ had already come and was not coming back. That was it. And people who believe nutty things like that wanna share it with everybody else. And we had to clamp down on it and finally tell them to leave and they were no longer welcome here to protect the church from their influence. In a moral instance, that if you have, it’s just sadly so common today, people from Christian homes, young people claiming to be Christians and they’re living in fornication. A man and a woman not married to each other, take a cruise together or a vacation together, they’re gonna be in the same room, or it’s known that they’re living together and the church has to take action. What’s gonna happen if you don’t intervene? It’s going to spread and other people think it must be okay. And so there has to be again, loving confrontation but if they will not repent, that’s where it begins, you have to say, this is not right, you cannot do this and be a member of a church.
Also, you’re concerned about the soul of the offender. James says if anyone among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. So you care about this person. You see that the direction they’re going in can ruin their own soul. College roommates and you see your roommate is cheating on exams, or that he’s looking at things he shouldn’t be looking at and you confront him because you don’t want him to go down the path of sin and destruction.
And then sin, which will effect your relationship with this other person that you’ve lost trust, you’ve lost respect, you’re tempted to bitterness and you can’t delay and give the devil an opportunity, it needs to be dealt with. And so first, Matthew 18, if you brother sins, go and show him his fault in private, if he listens to you, you have won your brother. So, you go to him, it says, first, before involving others. You don’t tell everybody else because ideally many situations can be resolved one on one.
First, practice personal peacemaking.
- Matt 18:15; 5:23-24
In building a culture of peacemaking in a church, one thing we wanna teach others is that if someone improperly tells you the sin of another person, you say well, and what did he do when you confronted him? What did he have to say when you admonished him? You shouldn’t be telling me, you need to go talk to him about this before involving me and then tell me how it goes now that you’ve pulled me in. Now there is an exception to this however. There are some cases we see in the New Testament of public sin, which then is a addressed publicly sometimes skipping the first stage. When Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles, Paul rebuked him in front of everybody because everybody was a witness to what happened. Sometimes in church discipline something that’s happened is a public sin or a public scandal and has to be somehow addressed in front of everyone, sometimes even if the person is repentant just to show that the church has dealt with it. Just as an example that a young couple, been courting and she’s pregnant and they decide to get married, but that takes awhile so after they’ve been married for four and a half months, she has a nine pound baby boy. You don’t have to be a biologist, a doctor, obstetrician, or math expert to realize something happened that was inappropriate, and it’s more or less public, and even if they’re repentant it’s appropriate that they confess to the community of God’s people that we did wrong, it’s public in this way, and we are repentant and we’re being married.
So you go, also and how you go, you go gently and lovingly and humbly. It says do it in a spirit of gentleness. You’re not venting anger. Often there’s a conflict and people go and they’re giving you a piece of their mind, they think they’re on Jerry Springer or Oprah or something and they’re gonna tell you how much that you’ve hurt them. No it’s, the word here, I love the word there, it says restore. You’re going to restore. It’s the word used when the disciples were mending their nets, they were restoring their nets, the nets had holes in them, nets with holes in them don’t work. We wanna fix them so they’re useful again. So you’re going in love to restore this person. Jesus says it’s like eye surgery. You’re taking a splinter out of somebody’s eye. You don’t want somebody with two crowbars trying to get a splinter out of your eye, you want somebody with clean, sanitized hands, being very careful and gentle. And we’ve been confronted. Last night when I was exercising I was, for some reason it was coming to mind different times in my life when I’ve been strongly confronted and boy when you realize how that feels, you wanna be gentle as you do it. It’s not easy. Be prepared to take some time to go again and again even for awhile before going on to the next step.
And then if he repents, forgive. It’s over. If he listens to you, good. And nobody else may need to know. If somebody has a right to know, good. But if not, it can be over. And no one else needs to be involved. And this should be happening a lot in almost all relationships. It should be happening in a marriage, it should be happening in close friendships, on elder and deacon boards because we’re all sinners and we hurt each other sometimes, and we wrong sometimes, we wrong each other and we stray sometimes, and so if you repent, you rejoice, and it’s done.
Then, if necessary, seek help in making peace (assited peacemaking).
- Matt 18:16
However, if necessary, if he doesn’t listen to you, you need to get help in making peace, but if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you so by the mouth of two of three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. Now on this second stage, I wanna bring out two types of scenarios. First is the scenario being described here, which is a case in which a person is clearly in sin, and the other witnesses are being brought in and it’s actually like in the Old Testament, he’s quoting from Deuteronomy, where you have multiple witnesses to a sin before you move on and bring the consequences in the next stage of discipline. And so the other person is coming and is bearing witness. I’ll give you a concrete example, about 19 years ago there was a situation in which a woman, a single woman in our church confided to her friend that she was having an affair with a married man. And the friend admonished her, repeatedly and she would not listen so the friend then arranged a meeting where two elders came to join her in confronting her friend, who was actually scheduled to depart on a cruise the next day with her married boyfriend. And there was no dispute over the fact of the affair, of the cruise being the next day. It was just a matter of whether this adulterous woman wanted to repent. And so here at this stage, you bring somebody else in and you’re ramping it up. And even then you’re hoping, we were hoping that day that she would say you know, thank you, I know this is wrong, I’m gonna call him and tell him it’s over, and I’m not going. That isn’t what happened which brought us to the next stage, but that’s what you’re hoping.
I’ll give you a personal example, now that you’ve at least seen my wife. There was an occasion, I would guess 16 years ago, I’m using old examples on purpose, 16 years ago, in which she did something that really upset me. I cannot tell you what it was, and I doubt if it was that important, but in my wicked sinful pride I became angry. When I get angry I don’t yell or scream, I just get real quiet. And so probably for two entire days, I hardly spoke to my wife, I was just very sullen, just kinda yes, no answers, and wouldn’t make eye contact, just kinda slinking around and acting miserable. And she being the Godly peacemaking woman she is, was pleading with me to talk with her, and she wanted to understand what she had done wrong, and why I was so upset, and then finally she said okay Jim, if you don’t start talking to me and working with me on this, I’m gonna call one of the elders over here, and he’s gonna make you talk. And that really sobered me up really quickly. I decided I didn’t really want that to happen, and I decided whatever it was I was upset about wasn’t as important as I had initially believed, and I think I can tell you that it’s never gotten to that point since then, but I’ll also tell you that in the back of my mind I know that if I go down that road, that’s where it’s gonna take me. So, that’s the purpose of it, to bring the person, and we’ve had other cases in the church where somebody’s into some kind of sin, and a friend or a spouse has talked to them and a couple of the elders come and that’s been what it took to get that person okay, I gotcha, I’m gonna take care of it.
There’s another scenario however that occurs, which is a little different, and that is sometimes what you have instead of one person clearly in sin being accused by someone who is trying to help him, you have two parties who are in conflict and they’re both accusing each other. You’ve got Pete and Sam, let’s say, and let’s say that Pete hired Sam to remodel his bathroom. And Sam says he did the work and that Pete hasn’t paid him, and Pete says, well that’s because the toilet leaks, and the countertop is off, and the tile has gaps in it, and they’re in this dispute and they’re on the verge of going to court against each other, and they’re both accusing, he’s accusing him of stealing by not paying, and he’s accusing him of shoddy workmanship, and ruining his bathroom, and sometimes a point comes where you’re kind of at the second stage where you’re having to come in and mediate, I would, by the way, advise more than one person getting in the middle of something like that and not coming alone. And your ambition of mediating, trying to help them reach a solution, that’s I think what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4, where these two women are not in harmony, he says indeed, true companion, I ask you to help these women. And that’s a lot of what counseling will be.
We do a lot of premarital counseling, my wife and I do, and one thing we will encourage the couple to do is to have kind of an unwritten prenup, a prenuptial agreement that if they ever find themselves in a conflict they can’t resolve on their own, to commit that if either one of them thinks they need help, that they get help, from a Godly couple, leaders in the church, so things don’t get worse, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. So sometimes, ordinarily at this stage there’s clearly a sin, you’re confronting the sin, sometimes they both say the other one’s sinning and you may need either mediation, which is where you try to get them to come to agreement, arbitration is where, like Paul is saying, is there not among you one wise man who would be able to decide between his brothers, and that’s where the two parties, if it’s a financial matter, with Pete, Al whoever they are, they could agree to let two of the elders of their church, or one elder from each church if they’re from different churches, come up with a solution, whatever the solution was they both would agree, whatever those guys came up with, they would follow it. This is something that peacemaker ministries does a lot of. They have training where they have a whole week of training and doing mediation, arbitration, dealing with conflicts as a peacemaker.
Finally, if necessary, take it to the church.
- Matt. 18:17a
And then, finally, if necessary, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. So the woman who was going off on the cruise the next day, we warned her and said that if we don’t see you in church tomorrow morning, it was a Saturday, which was the same time the cruise left, we are going to publicly announce that you are under discipline and we’re gonna tell people what’s going on and we’re gonna tell them to admonish you when you get back. It even could be in the case of this arbitration, where the people look at it and say you know, that bathrooms okay, you go in there and yeah you can put a little more grouting in here but it really is okay and you need to pay him. And at this point if he refuses to pay, it can become a matter of church discipline, because he’s a thief. He’s trying to use an inadequate excuse to defraud his brother in Christ. So at this point, you tell it to the church.
Now, in the process of church discipline, this is important in terms of how it’s done. One is, since the church is to be lead by the elders, I don’t think this means that if two people in our church have an accusation that they can pop up in the middle of a Sunday morning and say we have this accusation, we want all of you to discipline him. Think the order of the church is to be maintained by the leadership and the leadership has to determine and make sure the process has been followed and there is a validity of the charge before making it public.
I also think it’s very important that when it’s presented to the congregation, that the case be presented clearly. The congregation is being asked to join in the discipline, which means they need to understand what the evidence is and what the proof is, it’s not the leadership getting up there and say trust us, this is a bad guy. Because there have been cases in which leaders of churches have abused their authority, like Deoctrifies, it talks about in one of John’s apostles who by his own authority kicks people out for no good reason. So then the greatest sin on earth isn’t a little bit of disloyalty to the senior pastor, although in some churches it is. What really happened, what proof do you have, what process have you gone through. Another reason why it’s important to lay out to the congregation exactly what your proof and it is what has happened, is you only get one chance to really do this well in front of the congregation, and oftentimes the guilty party mounts a defense and they put the leadership or whoever accused them on trial, you didn’t follow the process right, you weren’t loving, you weren’t fair, I didn’t really do much. There was a case of a well known pastor in Orange County who had been caught having an affair with a member of his staff, or the wife of a member of his staff, and the way it seemed to have been handled is the church initially kinda made well he’s had some problems relating to his qualifications so he’s gonna step down. And then he goes, oh poor me, I’ve been so harshly treated by these mean elders. And later on it kinda came out what he’d really done and they hadn’t… But you get one chance and if you’re wanting the congregation as they should be, to participate and at this stage they’re not even kicked out of the church yet, now this is the stage where those in the church who know this person are pleading with them along with the first two or three people that got involved, there’s still time to repent, turn to the Lord, before it is too late. So the other members of the church join in, and pleading with the sinner to repent.