Facing Sin in Fellow Believers

Sin in Fellow Believers

Sin comes at us in several different ways and how we should react is different based on how it comes. These ways are: in ourselves, in the world, and in fellow believers. Each one brings its own challenges and difficulties and must be handled in different ways.

In Fellow Believers

1 Corinthians 5 reminds us how to deal with sin in the world, but the point of that passage is to talk about how to deal with sin in the body of believers. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are putting ourselves to a spiritual death through belief in His death and resurrection. As a part of that, we become enslaved to righteous living through commitment to obeying Him.

This is our choice. It’s not forced and, as long as we keep our belief in Jesus as our Savior, we don’t lose our salvation for messing up (I know, there’s a lot of theological points around this topic that not all people will agree with that. It’s where I stand though, so please don’t destroy me in your need to present your opinions as right.) That being said, Paul expects the people who claim allegiance to Jesus to follow certain lifestyle choices to living uprightly and honestly (Romans 6:1-2).

In chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with a situation where someone is claiming to be a follower of Christ, but is happily living a sin-filled lifestyle. Paul doesn’t take it well. He says, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.”

Paul isn’t the only one who feels strongly about hypocrisy. Jesus himself was very harsh on the Pharisees for their overly-pious version of hypocrisy. One example of many is from Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

This sounds great in light passing of the topic. Sure, hypocrisy is bad and we shouldn’t hang out with Christians who say one thing and do another. This can be a much more sensitive and hurt-filled matter when we’re dealing with a loved one or friend in our life who is in this situation. We must handle it with wisdom, first going to them in love and concern, as spelled out in Galatians 6:1-2.

The other thing we must keep in mind in this situation is that this is not talking about every time we make mistakes. We’d all be kicked out at some point if that were the issue.

Habitual sins are ones that we fall into over and over and struggle to break. They are strongholds that we must fight against repeatedly till we can learn to truly hand them over to God and let Him fully defeat it. It takes strength and courage to fight a battle over and over, when you feel like you should be able to just “be good” like everyone else. Habitual sins and hypocrisy are not the same thing.

The difference between them is that being a Christian doesn’t mean getting everything right all the time. It means, knowing you’re a sinner and relying on the grace of Christ, both of which require us to be honest about our sin and what we’re fighting. Real hypocrisy is when a person is choosing a sin that the person knows is wrong, has been talked to by friends and church leaders about how it’s wrong, and still lives that way. They do all this while claiming they have a close relationship with Christ and are His devoted follower.

Hypocrisy says, I know what’s right and what’s wrong and I’m going to do what’s wrong while still claiming I’m right and ok. Hypocrisy is the ultimate level of denial because if you’re not doing anything wrong, you can’t ever start getting it right. Hypocrisy is the dead end of spiritual arrogance. As long as you’re in that place, you are dying spiritually and probably aren’t aware of it.

Hypocrisy is serious, but so is all sin. As we face each and every form of it, we can be grateful that God provided us the guidelines to help us understand how to respond appropriately and in love no matter what.

God's Wisdom In Solomon - 1 Kings 3:28

Talk is Cheap, Actions are Revealing

And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” – 1 Kings 3:25-27 ESV

I need to be honest here and say this story is way down the list of favorite Bible stories. I find it unusual to say the least. But all of scripture is able to teach us (2 Timothy 3:16), so I started thinking about this passage to see how it can apply life. I thought about how we could glean things about not being jealous. Or how not gain at the cost of others. Or of the cost of not letting go during times of loss. However, let’s be honest and say that none of those things are what this story is supposed to be about, really. The bickering women are merely the stage setting for the real story: Solomon’s wisdom. In fact, the last verse of chapter 3 says, “And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” (1 Kings 3:28 ESV) What the people who saw this event took away from it was not anything to do with conflict resolution or women’s issues or even weird discernment techniques. Instead, they saw the wisdom of God in Solomon. Why?

I don’t know why two prostitutes were bringing their case to the King instead of an underling. Maybe they’d gone to all the people that were supposed to be dealing with them, and no one had been able to come up with an answer. Maybe they had “Free Visit with the King Day” in ancient Israel. Who knows what the reason was. But here they were and there was nowhere else to go. After the king spoke, it would all be decided, no appeals, no arguing.

In this place of finding their final answer, Solomon did something important: he stopped listening to their words. Instead, he found a way to make them choose based on their professed beliefs. He knew they would talk incessantly and never budge an inch on what they claimed. So, he found a way to put rubber to the road and choose: the baby living at the risk of being with the wrong momma, or ending the child’s life. Solomon made them face a terrible, but very real choice. Kings with absolute power could kill anyone without being questioned by anyone. This showed their true colors. Not because Solomon reasoned with them, not because they were convinced to change their mind, but because of this: they had to act on their beliefs. One knew she was the child’s mother and the other was acting out of personal gain. Their reaction to that ultimatum was the revealing of their true heart. The mother sacrificed the most important thing to her in order to protect it. This is the root of Solomon’s wisdom, talk is cheap and action is revealing.

Using that truth, I can easily see that there is wisdom to apply to my life. I can say what I want to say. I can pick sides in arguments. I can claim allegiance with certain groups of thought, political groups, or whatever else wants my time and attention. I can talk and think and believe. None of it matters, though, until you see how I act. Now, I don’t mean act in just any situation on just any day. I mean act when you’re back’s against the wall, where’s no other way out but through the battle, when the decision that is about to handed down is absolutely final, no do-overs. Then what? What becomes my priorities then?

I can say that generosity is more important than any material goods, but when I’m down to my last dollar, where does it go? I can say that I believe all people are equal, but when it comes to letting them into my home, do I open my doors?

Acting contrary to what you say has several names: if you do it on accident, it’s called naiveté. If you do it in full knowledge of the discrepancy, it’s called hypocrisy. Don’t live as a hypocritical Christian. When the pressure’s on and you have no other options left, be the person who’s actions are in line with their spoken beliefs.