Thursday, December 18, 2008

Your sins . . . made public?!

A Florida church is catching flack for their elders' decision to publicly announce to the congregation that one of their members is having pre-marital sex with her boyfriend. The 49-year-old woman, who is divorced from her husband, was told by Grace Community Church to stop sleeping with her new beau. She refused. Under pressure from Grace Community Church, she decided to withdraw her membership and is now attending elsewhere.

On January 4th the church leadership plans, in accordance with their understanding of scripture, to "tell it to the church." The scripture the church references is Matthew 18:15-17:
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Church discipline is a sticky wicket. (Check out this Wall Street Journal article on the subject.) The fact of the matter is, there are plenty of Frankly Speaking readers that are considerably smarter than this author. So here are a couple of questions for which I would love to read your answers:

Is this a correct application of Matthew 18?

Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you . . ." How does that apply in this instance?

Finally, how does Galatians 6:1, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." fit into all of this?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Frank

Is there any irony in this in that the churchs name is Grace Community?


Mike

Anonymous said...

I think the keep part of that Matthew passage is the "sins against you" part. If I strike you or slander you, and you want to take me to task about it, then that is your choice. That lady is not sinning against the Elders of the church. Her sin is with God. If God wants to take her to task, He will.

Also, the "Let him without sin cast the first stone" saying seems to apply here also. NONE of us are sinless and we will all stand before God one day and account for our sins.

It is a tough question though. I'm also sure we do not know all the details. Maybe this lady is a very active and prominent member or spiritual leader in the church. I am sure she is not the only person commiting Adultery in that church. Are the Elders going to expose every sinner in their church? And every sin? Why don't they just require every member of the church to come up front and publically confess their sins?

Starting with the Elders.

Bill Wagner

Anonymous said...

Update.

The story on FoxNews.com can be read at this address:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,469928,00.html

Bill

Anonymous said...

My understanding of the passage is that the steps outlined are used to bring the person back into a right standing with God and with His church. I do not know if the first two steps were followed.

Did the first person to become aware of the sin confront her as one brother or sister to another? If so, and she did not repent, did this person take one or two others? I would say that going to the elders, as someone apparently did, falls into the "tell the church" category.

Also, if she has already been pressured and left, they have gone right to treating her like a tax collector. At this point, telling everyone does not serve the purpose intended- to bring the church around a sister to help her restore a right relationship with God through repentance.

At least, that's how I see it.

-Andrew B.

James Pahl said...

...because that's what Jesus is all about.

You can only hope God will compel them (The Church) to attempt to make this right, if that's even possible at this point.

God's love and grace exhibited through his people is what helps to spark the change inside a person. Not this.

mike waugh said...

I guess I’d start by stating the irony of a news article that reports the FUTURE public disclosure of this woman’s sin. Ah, no need for a chat with the church now, is there?

Regarding the application of Matthew 18 – specifically v. 15 “if your brother sins against you . . .”

My lightning fast research (i.e., NASB text notes) shows that some of the earlier manuscripts do not have “against you” in them. This takes the emphasis off of the one who was “offended” and keeps it on the actual sin itself.

This seems to line up with the preceding text as well, where Jesus implies that God takes sin very seriously (if your hand/foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it out). If God does, then we ought to as well. So, regardless of who this woman sinned against, she was still walking in sin.

Knowing the damage that unconfessed and unrepentant sin will bring about in the life of a believer, it seems as though one of the highest forms of love we can display towards one another is to “go and show [that person] his/her fault.” This fits in well with the story of the lost sheep that Jesus told immediately before the ‘church discipline’ text. God takes sin very seriously, but he also takes restoration very seriously.

The difficulty in carrying out ‘Matthew 18’ is hit upon in the Galatians passage you bring up (6:1). I could be wrong, but I believe that the temptation which Paul is talking about is that of pride. And that’s the million dollar question. Can I confront the sin of another Christian out of brotherly love and a true desire to see him restored without falling, myself, to the temptation of pride?

What other motives might this church (or leadership) have in this one case?

How might pride factor into their decision to disclose this one particular woman, while more-than-likely disregard other people who are walking in various kinds of sin?

Good discussion.