I am in a tough place. People who have confessed Christ as Lord of their lives are doing bad things. Huge surprise, I know; it’s shocking. Here is my question: what is my role in calling them out? (Or in Christian-ese lingo, “holding them accountable”). The tension for me is that I want to tell the truth. I want to hold up a fair and good mirror for these people to see their actions in new light. Yet there is risk, because the change of heart that has lead to these actions in the first place could easily react harshly to a confrontation of the issue. Maybe they will use my conversation as another example of the Church being “close-minded and judgmental,” thus cementing their exodus from all things God-related.
However, maybe we risk even more for not saying anything. I know a man, a member of his church board even, who had an affair with another person in their church. His wife and family were crushed, but the final straw came when their church family went silent. No one publicly called out the dad for his selfish actions. No one came and comforted the family. No one pursued reconciliation. When the situation got tense, no one wanted to step on any toes, and so the family suffered twice.
Help me. I have multiple of these situations in my life and church right now. What do I do? I know that before all else we pray. Pray for these areas in my life and in yours. Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit to intervene. Then, what’s next? According to the Gospel of Matthew, it is simple:
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
Help! Do we need to start doing this? Is it appropriate to start the conversation via email? Facebook message? Our communication styles and regularity of interactions have changed just a bit since the time of Jesus and things have gotten complicated. Could you imagine publicly standing up in church on a Sunday morning against some of these messy and complex issues? Yowsers.
What do we risk if we do?
What do we risk if we don’t?
And, in the end, if we are going to treat someone as an “outsider” or “enemy”, then don’t we have to love them twice as much?
"My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins." James 5:19-20