If you have confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, what would your response be if your pastor announced that he was having an extramarital affair? Would you stand up and applaud him for his bravery in announcing that? And then reaffirm his decision, encourage him to continue his work as a pastor while he has a mistress alongside his wife and family? Would you tell him to just do whatever makes him happy? Or what if the children’s minister at your church announced that she is an alcoholic? Would you drink a toast to her for having the courage to come forward with that? Would you cheer her on and say, “You go girl!”? What if your Bible teacher, being single, told you he brought home a different girl every weekend? Would you tell him those desires were just how God made him so he should keep it up? When he posted on social media about his exploits, would you give it a thumbs up and tell him you had never seen him so happy? Or would you say he needs to find a church that approves of what he’s doing so he can still “serve the Lord”?
Would you encourage these individuals in these areas of their lives?
I want you to really think about what your response to each of those scenarios would be, especially where each scenario involves a Christian engaged in a lifestyle of sin. My guess is you would not affirm their decisions to live like that. I bet that you would say it was wrong to do those things, and maybe, just maybe, you would say they needed to stop those activities. But why? Is it just because there is a social norm that says having an affair, being a drunk, or being a womanizer is not good? No, it’s because we know that is not the behavior a professing Christian ought to have. The reason for that is because someone who is committed to following Christ is supposed to “deny themselves, pick up their cross” and follow Jesus. That means we are to deny our desire to have an affair, to drink too much alcohol, and to be sexually immoral. That is not so that we trade in all the “good” stuff here on earth so we can have “better” stuff in heaven. It is because Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commands.” And this is how He commanded us to live – because He knows what is best for us. Therefore, to demonstrate your love for Jesus, you are to keep His commands. You are to abide in His word. You are to hear and follow His voice.
Of course that doesn’t mean we don’t mess it up. We do have pastors announcing affairs and ministers living with addictions, just as much as we have Christians in the congregation struggling with those things. The difference should be in how we respond to it. Do we cheer it on? Do we support their sin? Or do we grieve alongside of them for their failings, give them Biblical, Godly counsel, and lead them in a different direction? Maybe we should even carry out that church discipline that Jesus talked about in Matthew 18:15-19. Jesus instructs us how to deal with sin among believers (not outside of the church). He says to go to that person individually to address his or her fault. If he listens then you have won him over, but if not, then take others within the body of believers to address it with the him. If the person still doesn’t listen, then take the person before the church. If he or she still refuses to repent or change, then put the person outside the fellowship of other believers. Jesus says, “Treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Can you imagine if a church actually followed Jesus’ commands like this? What would that even look like? The idea is so foreign to us because instead of calling on one another to walk in obedience, we support one another in our sins. We pat each other on the back and say, “It’s ok. We all fail. I do that too.” What is worse is we even encourage sin with each other! I’ve seen people cheering other people on in their sin. They get “likes” on social media and approval to continue on in what they’re doing. It is true that we all fail and we all sin, but we aren’t supposed to be proud of that! We aren’t supposed to rejoice in wrongdoing. True love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 is that we rejoice in the truth instead of evil and wrongdoing. We are supposed to strive to put away our sinful selves and make ourselves look more like Christ, and encourage others to do the same. And when we do fail, we are to confess, repent, and try again the next day through the power of the Holy Spirit to not continue in that sin. Instead, in our warped culture we brag about our sins on Facebook – and get likes for it! We define ourselves with our sin, laugh about it, and thus make a mockery of the work of Christ on the cross. Jesus took that seriously. That is why He gave instructions for how to deal with sin among the body of believers.
If the concept of church discipline is too foreign for us to understand, we can always look at how Paul exercised church discipline with the church at Corinth. There was a member of the church who was sleeping with his father’s wife, a sin so egregious that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5 even the pagans would not put up with such things. Rather than addressing this man’s sin, the church at Corinth was not only tolerating it in their midst, but they were boasting about their tolerance! The Corinthian church was not only allowing this man to persist in his sin while remaining in the church, but they were proud of it. Can’t you see their sign outside? “We accept ALL forms of love.” What did Paul tell them to do? He said, “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Yeast in the Bible is a symbol for sin. Paul is saying this sin they are letting persist in their midst without addressing will eventually permeate and affect the entire congregation. So Paul told the church of Corinth that instead of boasting about accepting this man’s sin, they were to be grieved over it. They were to approach him and tell him that his behavior is not bringing glory or honor to God and it needed to change. If he refused to repent, they were to set him outside of the fellowship so that maybe the broken relationship with the church would draw his heart to repent over what he was doing, and through that his soul could be restored. After all, they have accepted the sacrifice of Christ, and Jesus did not die on the cross so that they could continue in their sins.
This describes the appropriate response to sin among the body of believers. We aren’t to go around judging superficially, but we are to judge rightly, and Biblically. And we are to hold one another to the standard that Jesus Himself called us to, not so we can earn our salvation but because this is how we demonstrate our love for Him – obedience. It’s the same way that we can’t say we love our parents and disobey them. Our love for them is what drives us to obey, and our obedience is what establishes our love. Likewise, it is our love for God that calls us to follow His words, heed His commands, and strive for Godly behavior. And it is our obedience to God that proves our love for Him. However, just like with our earthly parents, we will still disobey, but we shouldn’t celebrate our disobedience. We should acknowledge that we all struggle, but then call one another back to repentance and obedience. Yes, it is “ok” that we fail because God loves us still, but we should not be proud of it, celebrate it, or encourage it.
In light of that, what would you do if a fellow believer announced that she is a homosexual and is now officially professing her love for her girlfriend? Or a member of your Bible study has asked you to meet his boyfriend? Is that any different from the scenarios described above? Is it not equally sinful? Then why do we see fellow believers applauding the “courage” of professing Christians in announcing their homosexuality? Why do I see Christians on social media saying, “You look so happy!” to a believer posting pictures with their same-sex partner? Why are other church members giving likes and thumbs up and “you go girl”-comments to a fellow believer announcing they are embracing and acting on their same-sex attraction? Why are Christians encouraging other Christians to embrace their sin choices? We should be grieved by these sins. We should be speaking to them individually about their choices that are leading them far from the commandments of God. We should be counseling them about how to deny their fleshly desires and take up their cross in obedience unto cross – as we all must do. We may not all have to deny the fleshly desire of same-sex attraction, but we all have to deny our fleshly desires. For one, it may be denying the desire to have heterosexual intimacy with someone who is not their spouse. For another it may be to deny their fleshly reaction of outbursts of anger and wrath. For yet another, it may be to deny their fleshly desire to indulge in too much alcohol or to use words that are not kind or loving. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. We should never celebrate another believer’s choice to embrace sin – no matter the sin.