Last Sunday I had the good fortune to
hear an awesome sermon based upon Paul's letter to the Galatian church.
Galatians is one of my all-time favorite books due to the fact that it
is about living the Christian life through the Holy Spirit. As a former
"fundamentalist" I am an authority on living life by means of rules and
restrictions, and I am greatly conscious of the spiritual death that
sinner and church reconciliation was a standard topic of
conversation, not to say dispute, in those circles. Hold on for some
The preacher introduced his assessment by sharing Paul's initial admonition in chapter 6: "Brethren, if any person is trapped in any sin, those of you who are spiritual, build up such a one in a spirit of kindness; each one looking to himself, to ensure that you too will not be enticed." We recognize that Paul is talking about Christians who are "caught...in...sin" due to the fact that he demands that they be reestablished in the church, and Paul would not have considered non-Christians to have anything to be restored to.
The reason that dealing with the sinner amid Christians is so difficult is that just about everything that is biblically required of us is contrary to the flesh. The flesh is uneasy with confrontation and, in its presence, mobilizes "fight or flight" reactions. Biblical principles, on the contrary, mandate us to stay engaged and be humble. Here are three points from Galatians 6:1 to think about:
1. Not taking any notice of the offender is not optional. "if a person is trapped in any sin... bring back such a one." This is an order. We may not ignore and we may not banish, except as a last resort.
2. The purpose of confronting sin is to restore. "...restore such a one." Even Matthew 18:15-18, which ends in possible dismissal from the church, has restoration as its ultimate aim: The earliest stage of confrontation finishes: "...if he listens to you, you have won your brother." The subsequent options provided for are undoubtedly designed to have the same end results. Even when the church is compelled to "let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector," we must conclude that the intent is to show the sinning Christian what he is throwing away by refusing to confess his sin. If and when he does so the church will start the plan of restoration that is the complete opposite of the program that contributed to his removal. Likewise, Paul tells the Corinthian church that there is a man or women associating with them whose sin is so overt that "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the ruination of the flesh, with the intention that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Notice that Paul's motive is that the person in time be "saved."
3. You must have the correct
motives to be qualified to confront. "... those of you
who are spiritual, reinstate such a one in a spirit of kindness." Fear
and irritation are poor motives for church reconciliation and wholeness.
Whenever we find ourselves reacting to Christian sin within the church with anger, self-righteousness, anxiety or fear, we need to instantly understand that the folks or church concerned are in danger from both the sin and the response to the sin. We are not capable to even start dealing with the sin until we have attended to our responses to it. We have to pray and surrender to the control of to the Holy Spirit until we can genuinely state that we are able to struggle with the sin but reconcile the sinner.