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Refreshment in Refuge

    by Gina Burgess

How do you confront sin in the church?
Date Posted: September 22, 2019

I was asked that question not too long ago. It is a very real problem because we are still in our frail bodies and in our natural state so we will sin at one point or another. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I'm fairly certain that Paul had both the Lost and the Saved in mind when he wrote that. So, how do you fellowship with someone in ministry who falls flat on his or her face, then blames someone else for the sin? Interesting question because Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them.

But God did not react with anger to sinful man, He instead acted with deep compassion and Jesus looked into the faces of those who nailed Him to the cross and asked forgiveness for them. So is it better to focus on the sin the other has committed or is it better to react with compassion and pray for the soul of the sinner?

Some would say, “Well, it depends upon the sin.” How could any honest and good church going believer react with compassion if the pastor ran off with his wife… or a good deacon/elder who absconds with the church’s funds. But, it might be possible if the sin is just some bad judgment or a little harshness in dealing with the congregation… or perhaps, “Oh, it’s just gossip.” I wonder how we can set a sin level. Sin A should be dealt with immediately it is found out, but Sin B, is just a personality quirk and we can let it slide.

The issue actually boils down to a simple sentence. Jesus said forgive your brother not just seven times but seventy times seven when he comes to you with repentance. And is it love if we forgive them without their repentance?

God gives us an excellent illustration of what He means by this instruction way back in 2 Kings 6. Good,old Elisha!

The king of Syria was making war against Israel. Every strategy he devised, God told Elisha and Elisha told the King of Israel. The king of Syria was enraged and figured there was a spy in his midst. But his men told him there was no spy, but that Elisah was telling the king of Israel the secret words that he spoke in his bedroom. The king of Syria wanted Elisha dead or alive so he sent 50,000 troops to get him. Elisha's servant was terrified one morning when he saw the army surrounding Dothan, where they were.

Elisah prayed the servants eyes would be opened and sure enough, the servant saw God's army of horses chariots of fire surrounding the Syrian army. Then Elisha prayed the Syrian army would be struck blind. Then Elisha boldly approached the king of Syria and told him he knew where the man of God was and he would take him to him. "Just follow me," he said.

Silly men.

The Syrian army followed Elisha right into the heart of Israel into the heart of the capital city of Samaria to the foot of the king of Israel's throne.

They knew God had consumed all the water, the 12 bulls, the stones, and the prophets of Ba'al when Elijah prayed. They knew that God told Elisah all their secrets. What made them think that more men, horses, and chariots would fair any differently? What made them think they could kill the man of God? And more importantly, what made them think an army of blind men could wage war? Nevertheless, breathing fire and murder they trekked after Elisha into Samaria.

The king of Israel asked, "What shall I do with them? Strike them all down?"

God said, "No. Give them bread and water and send them on their way."

And the king of Israel prepared a great feast, then sent them home. The Syrian army never troubled Israel again.

God instructed Israel to respond to their enemies with mercy and grace. They did and were never troubled with that enemy again.

Mercy and Grace to your enemy is actually heaping coals of fire on his head. Proverbs 25:22, Romans 12:20)

If we are to respond with Mercy and Grace to our enemies, then how much more our siblings in Christ should receive mercy and grace from us no matter what they do or say.

Confronting sin in our church midst has a process we should follow. Is this person a wolf in sheep's clothing? We are warned against these kinds of intrusions into our midsts. Or is he a godly person who has done a terribly ungodly thing and is having a terrible time dealing with it?

I must remind you:

God sent His Son while we were yet sinners.
All fall short of the glory of God.
Jesus said forgive your brother not just seven times but seventy times seven when he comes to you in repentance.
Jesus also said he who has been forgiven much, loves much.

We must seek and follow God's authority. Not to determine if you have the right to confront it, because God uses all believers to edify and keep the body healthy. We look at the authority because it does no good to talk if the ears are not going to listen. Paul spoke candidly to those who were injuring the cause of Christ, but he was in a position of authority. The One who has the ultimate authority has promised that he will discipline and chastise those whom He loves for their betterment. And He uses many avenues to fulfill His purposes including “the least of these.”

Repentance takes an act of submission to God. It is a heart change.

When a person is in denial about their own sin then their heart hardens and can become like stone. This is precisely why God designed the family with all its parts like He did. One hand cannot wash itself by itself. One foot cannot walk by itself without toes and the other foot for balance. As we grow closer to God, we sin less and we are better able to recognize sin for what it really is and not what it is packaged in. How do you work along side someone whom you know is sinning or in a sinful relationship? How can a broken leg hold you up or take you for a walk?

We must balance each other. Ask God what role He would have you play in all of it. If He lays it so very heavily on your heart, I believe that is God urging you in a special way to deal with this person in a loving way. I urge you to pray deeply about this and to tread lightly asking God to soften his heart and prepare the way, smoothing the path. Also ask Him to take the urgent feeling of dealing with the problem away if He has no desire for you to talk to the person. After I was absolutely sure this is what God wanted me to do, I would call this guy up and be honest with him telling him that God had laid a burden on my heart and I would like to buy him what ever... and talk with him about the burden.

If you have been sinned against and that person who offended won't listen to you, then talk with your pastor or a godly close friend. If he is God's man, he will listen to how God wants the situation handled. Know, however, that there are some in the church who won't listen with their hearts. A pastor failed me miserably when I asked him to talk to my sinning husband. Instead of blaming the pastor, I should have realized my husband ears were closed and no amount of cajolling would unlock them. So, if you meet a road block such as that, continue to pray. Humans are stubborn things.

I do not think that God allows just anyone to confront one of His children about their sin. I believe that God prepares the heart of the one to do the confronting and the heart of the one to receive the confronting. When the child that needs the discipline has a heart change then God is pleased but it cannot turn out well without much prayer and heart preparation on the part of the confronter and a great deal of softening the heart (preparation of the soil so to speak) of the offender.

We, as responsible believers, just cannot sit by and allow a cancer to eat its way through our church. God never ignores sin. I also think that once a person has proven his weakness, God takes him through a series of lessons in the "hard knock" class. After some bruised shins and skint elbows and some bloody knees, we finally pass the test and God can then trust us again with His sheep.

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"Refreshment in Refuge" from Gina Burgess


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Biography Information:
Gina Burgess has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training for almost three decades. (Don't tell her that makes her old.) She earned her Master's in Communication in 2013.

She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.

If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection

Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and
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