Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
~ Galatians 6:1-5
Within the fellowship of believers, as mentioned in my last post, we will continue to struggle with sin. For the most part it will be temporary, but sometimes we will fall into a season of sin where we may be deceived into thinking that we can handle it and get out of it ourselves, or we may not even realize that we are in sin. So, how should a Spirit led, Christ focused church respond to a flagrant sinner in their ranks? Banish him? Burn him at the stake? Unfortunately, this is very often the case. Paul, however, reminds us that we are nothing more than sinners who were redeemed by the same good news of salvation from God on the unrighteous. It is therefore our duty as fellow believers to partner with that sinning brother or sister and help to restore them. If they are sinning such that they are leading others astray or causing division within the church it may be necessary to separate them from the body for a short period of time, but only while under the care of the body with a desire to see them brought back into fellowship.
Let’s say that one week your donation plate comes up short at your church. You know you put in $150 and that you saw others place more cash in as well, but there is only $75 left when it is counted at the end of the service. There is something obviously wrong here. After a short investigation, and a public proclamation that there has been a theft from the offering, a new member stands up, shaking and in fear, and confesses that they took the money to pay their rent. They didn’t know what to do and were short on time, they saw the money and when no one was looking they took enough to cover their needs. What is the response of your church? Should they be kicked out? Should the police be called to handle it? Let’s examine the situation:
First, the person who took the money did not make their need known to the body. This could be from a fear of man (pride issue), or because they did not know that the church would happily help those who have a need (lack of knowledge). The other issue is that the body did not know of their need and seek to help them. Not that we should know everyone’s financial status, but that we should make it known that we are able and willing to help in any way we can. The church is not just a place where our spiritual needs are met, but where our Christian family comes together to meet all the needs of one another.
So the right response may be that the church apologizes to that person for not making their availability known to them. Maybe there is a set restitution schedule to help them pay it back, or maybe the church allows them to keep it and, in a show of God grace, gives them another $1,000, free of any strings, just to help them get through this time of trouble. Maybe someone in the body who is a financial adviser should schedule some time to meet with them and to help them through their struggles. What would your church do?
Now let’s change it up a little. Let’s say that your internet-based email client tweaks out one day and emails everyone in your contact list your web history and there are more than a few pornographic sites listed within? Would you cover one sin with another and lie about it, or confess your sin and seek help from your local body of believers? In that case, what do you think the response from your church should be toward you?
It is in bearing the burdens and struggles with one another that we fulfill the “law of Christ” in that we are to love one another as Christ first loved us. As we are all going to have to stand before God alone, it is in our love for one another that we focus first on helping each other finish the race well, so that we may all stand before God knowing that we have done our best to honor Him and His sacrifice on our behalf. Again, not that our actions or works achieve anything for us, but that we are merely reflecting God’s love toward us on others for the elevation of the whole body of believers.