Every Monday evening my husband and I attend a small group Bible study that is associated with our new church. We love the group, the camaraderie, the different topics and just being around like-minded people. But last night, I was disturbed by something and I would like some input from my faithful readers (emphasis on FAITH-ful). I know what I think, but I seemed to be in the minority.
Part of the discussion was how to treat people who are blatant sinners, lost in sin and who don’t seem to want to find their way out of it. Our video presentation last week had an insightful message about the topic. The speaker said that the sinners are not our enemies, although we often treat them like they are. They are victims of the enemy who is trying to destroy all of us and take as many as he can with him to hell.
During the discussion last evening, we also talked about how Jesus would respond to the LGBTQ+ advocates who are sometimes aggressive. My opinion was and is that he would love them. He always loves the sinner! But what disturbed me was when one member of the group spoke up, kind of off topic, and said that one church pastor from a local church (not the one I attend) had said from the pulpit that anyone living in sin with a partner outside of marriage needed to leave the church because they weren’t welcome there. The consensus of the group last night, at least among the vocal ones who spoke out, was that was the correct thing to do. Kick the sinners out! My heart plummeted but I did not enter the discussion. I just pondered it and awakened this morning with the issue in my mind and heart. Is that truly what Jesus would do? They justified it with a few references to Scriptures, but I looked the verses up.
This verse specifically says if someone sins against you, not the church, not God’s law and moral code, you, then you go to him/her privately. The second step is to take witnesses and confront the person and the final step is to go to the whole church. I’m not sure that the issue we were discussing last night falls into this category. Rather, I think it’s more of confronting the log in your eye instead of the speck in another person’s eye since God is the final Judge of all. I hope it is obvious to you that I think it is totally uncalled for and wrong to publicly humiliate sinners and tell them that you expect them to leave the church. Where out in the world will they hear the Gospel if the church people, those supposed to be filled with the love of Christ have rejected them? Furthermore, will these sinners be even willing to listen to a Christian again? All of this disturbs me greatly.
This was another reference that I looked up and now I see clearly that it is the leadership of the church being held to a higher standard. They are reproved before all so that others are warned. But I still did not see anything in the Scripture about asking them to leave the church. I think in the Catholic Church, that is known as excommunication and is an extreme consequence rarely used. Not wanting to focus on differences in beliefs here or one particular church, I want to draw your attention back to the matter at hand and my question on which I sincerely desire your input.
Is it ever right for the leadership of the church to call out sin before the congregation and ask those sinners to leave the church? To tell them that they don’t belong there, so they just need to leave?
My mind is going in circles at the repercussions of such abuse of power (that’s what I think it is) as well as a judgmental spirit that is not working towards restoration but all reproof and rebuke. Jesus was our example and he hung out around sinners all the time, to the point that the “religious leaders” called the Pharisees judged Jesus for being around those who sinned so much.
I don’t know about you guys but I don’t want to go to a church in which the sinners are not welcome. I am a sinner saved by God’s grace and I want everyone to understand God’s love and mercy. Yes, He is filled with righteous anger at sin and will one day judge all of us. But is it right to not offer the bread of life to the hungry? Of course, I agree that living with someone to whom you are not married is a sin. But I don’t think this sin is any worse than others and Jesus would have rebuked the sin and loved the sinner.
Now that I’ve rambled on for a while about my own frustration, please feel free to leave me a comment about your thoughts. I would greatly appreciate Scripture verses to defend your own thoughts. I’m not confused but I am astonished that any church could do this to a non-believer and think it’s okay. What happened to forgiveness and restoration?