“Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning” (1 Timothy 5:20 – NASB)
“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 a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 – NASB)
These scriptures can make individuals rather uncomfortable in our culture of love-is-all-you-need. Paul’s instruction to Timothy seems even harsh. If we’re tempted to ignore these words by Jesus and by the apostle, it shows how ingrained our culture has become in us. Here is the fourth myth that paralyzes the church when it is believed:
Myth #4 – Taking a stand on an issue and calling it a sin is being judgmental and unloving, and will only drive people away. Since we’re all sinners, the church –individually or corporately – shouldn’t say anything when someone is known to be living in sin.
The one scripture everyone – believers and unbelievers alike – seems to know is “Do not judge.” People who’ve never opened their Bibles quote this. It’s kind of funny that individuals who put no stock at all in the Bible and mock those who do quote it so much and expect this one verse to be followed as the law of the land.
What people who say “Don’t judge” often are saying is, “Don’t point out that what I’m doing is selfish. I want to continue doing what I want with whom I want at the expense of all involved and don’t you dare make me feel bad that people might get hurt from my actions.”
Sadly, Christians who don’t bother to study what the Bible says about sin have no answer to the “Do not judge” cliché. It would in fact surprise many believers to know that there are almost as many scriptures telling us to judge as there are not to judge! Therefore, there has settled heavily on the church an ungodly worldview of “Live and let live.” In other words, “I’ll do what I want and you do what you want.” This is an unrighteous outlook because it puts human reasoning over what the Bible explicitly says. When we pretend sin is not harmful, and that those who continue in it will somehow turn out okay, what we’re really saying is “Live and let die.” “Go ahead and stay in your shackles, your filth, your path of destruction. I don’t ‘judge’ you. I don’t even love you enough to see you set free.”
One Sunday while the pastor was preaching, I was mightily convicted of the need to contact a youth whom I knew had been struggling in sin. We had a good relationship but she had confided in me something heavy she’d been struggling with for years and was finally succumbing to. I had been diligently praying for her. But God told me to tell her lovingly and gently that if she didn’t come into repentance, she’d have no peace and no fellowship with the Body.
I can tell you I did not want to do this. But I knew if I wasn’t obedient in this place where it was tough – where the culture has made it so politically incorrect to point out sin even lovingly – that the influence and authority I had where He’d given it would be taken away. So, I obeyed.
When a congregation permits ongoing sin – turns a blind eye to it after the Holy Spirit has told leadership to address it – that church permits poison to seep in. Because “when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death” (James 1:15 – NASB). The reason most people tolerate sin is because they only see it in its infant stages – they can’t foresee what will happen when it is full-grown. It may take years, but eventually it will bring about death.
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them…”
Is it too slight a thing for you that you should feed in the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pastures? Or that you should drink of the clear waters, that you must foul the rest with your feet? As for My flock, they must eat what you tread down with your feet and drink what you foul with your feet!’” (Ezekiel 34:7-10, 18-19)
Some churches are legalistic and unloving, and quick to find fault. This is one extreme that can poison a congregation. But failing to deal with ongoing sin when it is known is another way that leaders “foul the clear waters for their flocks,” and is just as harmful.