by Aleta Kay
I hear it a lot: “Why should I go to church? The people are like piranhas: when someone makes a mistake they run them out of the church or make them feel so miserable they want to just disappear. They’re all a bunch of hypocrites anyway.”
It is sad that so many people have had this experience. Not only to the “righteous” ones reject those who have fallen; they go tell others what sin or sins have been committed and warn others not to have fellowship with the one who has strayed from the path.
The Bible does tell us not to have fellowship with those who claim to be Christians and live in open, unrepented sin. In the church at Corinth a young man was having an adulterous relationship with his stepmother. The church was very proud of their broad-mindedness and acceptance of the situation. The apostle Paul wrote the church a letter and said the elders (leaders) of the church should go to the man and confront him about his sin and plead with him to repent. If he refused he was to be banned from the church until he did repent. This was to be done in a spirit of love and compassion.
We are to be the light and salt of this world. We are to, IN LOVE, confront sin. This does not mean with go with an attitude that has our fingers pointing at the fallen one’s nose and shouting “Get right with God or else!” No, we are to go to that person, show them the scripture that talks about that particular sin and plead with them for their own sake and the sake of their testimony before a lost and dying world to get back on the right track and forsake that sin. The Bible tells us we are to go in twos. Two people at a time. If the person refuses to repent the first time, we are to get the pastor and the head deacon to visit. All of this is to be done with compassion. If he still refuses to repent, he is then to be brought before the entire congregation and be told he can no longer be a part of their fellowship until he gets back on the right track. The Amish people call this shunning. The purpose is to make that person so miss the fellowship he once had with his church family that he will repent and come back to the fold.
Nowhere in scripture have I found any verse or passage that tells us to treat each other with condemnation and criticism. Proverbs tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. It does not call all the other church members and start a gossip session. Love does not give all the sordid details as a prayer request. It simply says, “Please pray for……………….he’s going through a rough time.” That’s all that needs to be said. How would you like it if you made a mistake or fell into sin, or got into some kind of trouble, and the next thing you know the whole church is talking about it? You wouldn’t like it and neither would I.
Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Bretheren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” I think that pretty well says it all. Don’t be a critic or a hypocrite. Go to that person in the spirit of love and plead with them to turn from their sin. If they refuse you are not to have fellowship with them.
For example: I have friends who are not Christians. I will visit them but I will not hang out with them. I know their reputations and I must protect mine. But they know I care about them. They know they can talk to me about anything and I will listen. If they want my advice I give it. If not, I just listen. I don’t repeat anthing anyone tells me. If I have to give reference to a situation, such as in this column, I don’t mention any names, only the situation. “There but for the grace of God go I.” If you can’t talk to someone about their sin with compassion then let someone else do it. Don’t ruin their chances of ever being accepted back in church by gossiping about them. Treat others the way you want to be treated.