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Replay: Sin and the church

Posted by on Apr 6, 2013 in discipleship | 5 comments

Replay: Sin and the church

Five years ago, I wrote a four part blog series called “Sin and the church.” If there’s one word that could describe how the church responds to sin today, that word would be “inconsistent.” For the most part, Christians accept some sins without blinking, while immediately condemning anyone who comes close (or looks like they might one day think about coming close) to other sins. But, according to Scripture, how should we respond to sin? That’s the question I attempt to answer in this series. Below, I’ve “replayed” the final post in that series, with links to the other posts at the bottom.


Sin and the church – Part 4

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. 4-6-2013


    When we seek to minister to an obvious sinner (I like your distinctions!), we need to remember, as we look at them, that we are looking in a mirror!

  2. 4-7-2013

    I think we must distinguish between sin of a more private nature which has primarily private consequences. For those, your analysis is spot on.

    However, for leadership sins in the church which hurt God’s people or bring reproach on the Lord and His Body – because when they involve exploitation or an abuse of trust – there’s more that has to be addressed.

    I have found that without open confession and repentance, there can be no healing either for the leader or his victims. I also believe that the standard for leadership is such that some leadership sins are disqualifying, and forgiveness does not mean putting them back in a position or role where they can abuse again.

    When we naively think that forgiveness is the end point with those who abuse others, we only enable them to abuse again.

  3. 4-7-2013

    Forgive me for one more thought.

    From years of pastoral counseling, I also what to make an important distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. They are different, but folks often confuse the two. The former takes only one to do – I can forgive, without regard to the other person’s stance towards me. The latter takes two – both have to be willing and able restore the relationship.

    Often, however, reconciliation is not wise – especially where their was abuse, or emotional or spiritual control. This can be true in a private relationship, or a public relationship. If the other party is not willing to deal with their issue of abuse or control, it would be unhealthy for their victim to seek restoration or to excuse the abuse (forgiveness is NOT saying it was OK, it’s saying I personally pardon you even though what you did was wrong) – even though the victim needs to forgive for their own wellbeing and healing.

    Anyway, I wanted to add that perspective, because too often when folks think it all ends with forgiveness and thus don’t deal with the reality of continuing consequences or unrepentance in others that can continue even after forgiveness, the problems only compound.

  4. 4-7-2013

    Another perspective providing for the case against hierarchy…IMHO. The more hierarchy the greater the damage. Addressing sin in a brother or sister can be so redemptive. Addressing sin in “leadership” can be so intimidating and often met with power struggle.

  5. 4-8-2013

    Aussie John,

    That’s true. We are definitely sinners helping sinners… Of course, we’re all helping each other with the grace and power of God indwelling us.


    I think one of the difficulties in dealing with this issue today is that we often don’t really know (don’t have a real relationship) with the people involved.


    Yes. Like I said to Jim, the problem often stems from not really sharing our lives with one another. If we separate “leadership” from others, then we will automatically have a problem with this.