the weblog of Alan Knox

Sin and the church – Part 4

Posted by on Apr 4, 2008 in discipleship | 8 comments

In this series, I’m asking the question, “What should believers do when they discover that another believer has committed sin?” In this final installment, I want to look at a few attitudes that are necessary for us to deal with sin in a biblical and godly manner. I do not suggest that this list is exhaustive. However, I do believe that these attitudes are extremely important for dealing with any kind of sin.

1. Love – We must approach someone who is actively sinning in an attitude of love. Sin fractures relationships – both relationship with God and relationships with others -, and we should desire to reconcile those broken relationships. Thus, approaching someone with the purpose of exposing their sin is not the proper motivation. A desire to show that a person is not as good as people think is not the proper motivation. A desire to get rid of a leader that we do not like is not a good motivation. We should only approach someone who is sinning out of love.

2. Humility – The attitude of humility begins by recognizing our own sinfulness and our tendency to yield to temptation. Thus, Paul’s warns the Galatians that those who are restoring someone caught in a sin should do so while watching out for themselves. This attitude of humility will also tend to dispel any thoughts of self-righteousness, as we recognize that the grace of God is the only reason that we are not caught in the same sin.

3. Understanding – Love and humility – that is, care for the other person and a recognition of our own sinful tendencies – will lead to an attitude of understanding instead of an attitude of condemnation. It is possible to both welcome and accept a brother or sister caught in sin without condoning sin itself. God does this for us.

4. Forgiveness – Forgiveness is very important, but we often overlook forgiveness, or we wave our hand at it as if forgiveness is not necessary. Forgiveness is necessary and it should be spoken to the individual. Let them know that we forgive them as God forgives them.

I would like to add one final thought about sin and the church. We must make the distinction between sin – that is, disobedience to God – and cultural taboos. Every action that we dislike is not sin. If we do not make this distinction, then we are setting our own opinions of attitudes and behaviors on the same level as God’s. To mention two examples, neither drinking alcoholic beverages nor smoking cigarettes are sin. The behaviors may be unwise. They may be unhealthy. They may be dangerous. They may demonstrate other sins such as addiction or drunkenness. But, the activities themselves are not sin, even though they are not accepted in certain cultures.

Sin is devastating. Sin is pervasive. Sin is unnecessary. We can walk in the Spirit and not sin. However, when a brother or sister sins, the church – other believers – must deal with this sin in a godly manner. Let’s not find ourselves sinning in our actions and attitudes when we are trying to help another brother and sister who is sinning.


Sin and the church series
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-4-2008


    Some religious policemen I know wouldn’t care much for what you are saying, but, brother, you bless this old feller!

    Your last sentence is so very pertinent,”Let’s not find ourselves sinning in our actions and attitudes when we are trying to help another brother and sister who is sinning.”

    Much prayerful thought and care must precede any approach, to correct another, because the very motivating force behind our desire to correct another’s sin, may be our own sin! More often than is realized, and, possibly, in todays church climate, mostly.

    Self-righteousness, jealousy, spiritual or personal pride, etc., are often disguised behind the rational for “correcting” another, and NOT the fine sounding “reasons” with which we persuade ourselves we are righteous in our actions.

  2. 4-4-2008

    I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity to post a comment on this series. I think you’ve hit on some good things, and this list is important. Confronting a brother or sister who is, as we usually say, living in sin, is necessary and difficult and important. To your list I might add patience and an overall attitude of grace, though the latter is probably assumed.

    I had a dear friend in the ministry who was committing improprieties with some teenage girls. He was one of those people everyone loved, and we had been friends for some 10 years. I felt that someone had to deal with it, and who better than a friend. It went horribly, and I ended up looking like a horrible person while he was able to continue in his sin.

    It was a year later when it all came to a head, and everybody drug him through the mud once it all came out in the open. I was able to love him through it, help him get help and he is now restored. He has since told me how grateful he is that I was the one person who truly loved him in that I confronted the issue, offered any help I could, and never acted to, as you say, expose him or get rid of him. The whole situation took a lot of these attributes you speak of here.

    Anyway, I only tell this [shortened version of the] story to affirm what you have written about. To love someone truly is not to ignore their sin, and it’s not to rake them over the coals. It’s always to help someone graciously be restored to the type of life the Scriptures call us to live.

    I like your addendum at the end, about our taboos that we often want to think are sins. I’ve heard of people being confronted over not listening to Christian music or going to a Mardi Gras parade or going trick-or-treating. Just because we don’t care for something doesn’t mean we can speak for God on the issue. Right?


  3. 4-4-2008

    Aussie John,

    “Religious policemen”… I like that phrase. Your comment is an excellent continuation of this discussion. Thank you very much!

    Alan (Reynolds),

    Thank you for sharing that story with us. As with Aussie John above, I think your comment is another excellent addition to this discussion. Thank you!


  4. 4-5-2008

    1.Love. Yes, this is huge. I’ve found that it is also more complicated than one would think. I’ve gone to friends on different occasions that I’ve seen in sin and told them the classic line, “I love you brother, and I just don’t want to see you hurting yourself like this.” What an over-used and crock statement that can be. Every time I would leave feeling sickened with myself and couldn’t figure out why. I was lying to them. My words were empty because in my heart I can honestly say I didn’t love them like God says to love someone. In my mind and in my heart my life, to me, was more important than theirs. I wouldn’t think of giving my life for theirs. A sincere and genuine kind of love is something that we cannot achieve on our own without a work of the Spirit in our hearts. We cannot make ourselves love someone like this. I think about how much I love my wife and children and can honestly say I would die for them. This is the closest thing I can think of to the kind of love God says I should have for my neighbor. Yes, even “that” neighbor.

    2. Humility-…”Thus, Paul’s warns the Galatians that those who are restoring someone caught in a sin should do so while watching out for themselves….” I’ve experienced these repercussions first hand in a situation with one of the friends I mentioned above. It took a few years but the same sin I self-righteously pointed out in his life turned around and bit me hard. I am still battling with that one. This is a very real concern and a warning that must not be taken lightly.

    I think you properly labeled in order attitudes 1 and 2 and I think they are dependent upon eachother and a prerequisite to attitudes 3 and 4. Great series, Alan.

  5. 4-5-2008

    Alan. Well spoken. Maybe I missed it, but did you mention Matthew 18, particularly verse 15-33. This to me seems to be the most clear teaching of how to deal with sin in the church in the Bible.
    /Jonas Lundström

  6. 4-5-2008


    Great discussion about love and humility. As you said, it is so easy to convince ourselves and others that we are acting in love and humility when in reality we’re not. Thus, we must take time to examine our attitudes and motives before approaching someone who is living in sin.


    I did not specifically discuss Matthew 18, because my desire in this series was to discuss attitudes in approaching people. I think many times people use the process of Matthew 18, but they use it from a wrong motive, or for the wrong reasons. I’ve posted a few things about Matthew 18 previously, but perhaps I’ll post something else soon.


  7. 4-6-2008

    Alan. I see. I believe Matthew 18 includes teachings on right attitude. Often we divide the text up into verses and use only vers 15-17 in regard to church discipline. But the whole chapter is teaching on the same thing, and the center is the forgiveness describe in vers 21-33. This text is more about reconciliation, bringing people back and forgiveness than about discipline (compare to Matthew 5:21-). So if people “use” verse 15-17 out of anger or judgment, they are not obeying Jesus teachings on this topic.
    /Jonas Lundström

  8. 4-6-2008


    I agree completely! Matthew 18 is about reconciliation, and the context certainly points examining our attitudes in how we approach a brother or sister who has sinned against us. Thank you for the comment.