Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
How can it possibly be all right for any person to sin and then to blame someone else for the sin?
Because we say, "That's okay. It's all right, I forgive you," it feels as if we just told the offender the act was okay. (Which is what forgiveness actually feels like on the surface.) When an offense has been committed, it is not okay. However, who wants to carry dead weight around? Letting go of the offense and allowing God to deal with it in His own way and His own time is the act of forgiveness. I seriously doubt that anyone who forgives an offense can completely put it out of their mind and never think of it again. However, we can decide never to bring it up again and in so doing, we can choose our thought process concerning the event.
What about when someone commits an offense against God’s people? What are we supposed to do then?
When a person sins, fellowship with God is broken until the sin is confessed, and realignment with God is achieved. When another person, especially one in a church leadership role, commits an offense it is a greater offense because it can lead the sheep astray. Jesus said if one were to be a stumbling block to the least of these, it would be better for him if a millstone were tied about his neck and he be tossed into the sea. That is serious consequences for a serious offense. However, whatever the sin and whoever the sinner, it must be biblically addressed.
When a person avoids me all together that tells me he or she knows an offense has been committed, and is in denial about it. It shows a great deal about where a person is in his Spiritual walk with God. Avoiding the person wronged is how offense is dealt with...denying it. When a fellow borrows a hundred dollars from a friend promising to pay it back and then as time goes along things become really tight and he sees that he cannot pay the money back. His first inclination is to avoid the person he's borrowed from thinking, "Maybe if I don't see him then he won't remind me that I owe him money and he certainly won't ask me to pay up if he can't find me. I feel guilty that I can't pay back what I owe so I'll just avoid him." On the other hand, avoidance is practiced with the person wronged does not know he or she has been wronged—like when adultery happens. It is a futile hope the sin won’t come to light.
When a Spiritually immature person sins, this is how he can react to God. Let me just brush this under the rug and I won't have to deal with it and by that time, the wall is built up between him and God and the relationship is broken. Not from God's side but from his own side. He doesn't even realize he's done this. Because seeing your face or maybe it's the Holy Spirit in you that is convicting him. He feels guilty so he avoids that feeling by avoiding you. He doesn't want to deal with God so he avoids you and the Holy Spirit in you.
Paul sent Mark home because he was homesick and pining away. Barnabas argued to keep Mark with them, but Paul was adamant. It caused a rift between not only Paul and Barnabas, but also between Paul and Mark. However, Paul forgave him and then yearned for him later, writing for him to be sent to him, because he was such a great help in his work. That relationship was restored. It is how things should happen among Christians.
Paul also spoke of others who injured the cause of Christ and turned them over to the Lord for correction. Therefore, who is it exactly that has ultimate authority over the offender? God has promised that He will discipline and chastise those whom He loves for their betterment.
How do you fellowship with someone who is in the ministry who sins and then blames someone else for his sins? How do you fellowship within a church when the leadership deceives the sheep, and attacks the shepherd to cast him out?
It is an interesting issue. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them.
Breaking fellowship is such a major step. This is why Paul said to reprove them... expose it... see what it looks like in the Light of Christ (The Message).
Is the offender a wolf in sheep's clothing? Or is he a godly person who has done a terribly ungodly thing and is having a terrible time dealing with it? When Christians cannot resolve these kinds of issues, the Holy Spirit is greatly grieved. It is exactly like cutting off your hand or gouging out you eye.
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?
For my part, I have a deep tendency to get angry at someone who attempts to lead the sheep astray. I get really upset at the false teachings that my little Sonshine Kids would spout sometimes because I know it came from a false teacher in their own culture. I just have to pray that God protects their hearts and minds and teach the Truth at every turn
It is about sin, and confronting sin for those who stray from biblical principles. It is not about justice or vindication. Anyone who confronts someone about a wrong, one must remember a few things:
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.
What ever the offense, it takes the offender to recognize the offense as sin. If not it’s like Aaron looking at Moses with that doe in headlights look saying, "All that gold just fell in the fire and jumped out looking like a calf! Honest!" Yeah, right.
Repentance takes an act of submission to God. It is a heart change. When a person is in denial about his own sin then his heart hardens and can become like stone. This is precisely why God designed His 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.
We have to balance each other. When God lays something like this so very heavily on your heart, I believe that God is urging you in a special way to deal with the sinner in a loving way. I urge you to pray deeply about it and to tread lightly asking God to soften his heart and prepare the way, smoothing the path. Also asking Him to take this feeling away if He has no desire for you to talk to the offender. After I was absolutely sure this is what God wanted me to do, I would call the person up and be honest telling him that God had laid a burden on my heart and I would like to buy him lunch...coffee... what ever... and talk with him about the burden.
I do not think that God allows just anyone to confront one of His children about his or her sin. I believe 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.
When we pretend nothing ever happened when sin is committed, who are we helping? God judges all. We don’t deal out justice, but we do answer for the way that we respond to sin in ourselves and in others. God offers forgiveness but never ignores sin.... it cost Him His son.
(Portions of this column come from a previous column.)
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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 eBookChristian.com
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