Please Chime In: How Do You Treat Non-Believers?

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?

Have a blessed day, remembering that you are a sinner saved by God’s grace and left here on earth to tell others about His mercy and forgiveness.

18 thoughts on “Please Chime In: How Do You Treat Non-Believers?

  1. To answer your question, yes, as outlined in Matthew 18. If the person has been approached one-on-one and not repented, if (s)he has been confronted by two or three witnesses and refused to repent, then it’s time to take it to the whole church. If someone is living in blatant, unrepentant sin, (s)he should not be allowed to hold membership. (You mention the reference to sinning “against you.” The blatant sinner who is an official member of your church is most certainly sinning against you all by what their behavior does to the church’s reputation.
    Having said that, I’m not sure “treat him as a pagan or a tax collector” means not to let him/her set foot in the church. The way Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors was to offer them salvation through the Truth, so by all means, continue to invite them to church, knowing that they know what they’ll be hearing there. But Truth should not be swept under the rug for the sake of not “offending” them. Such people need the love of God, and pretending that their sin isn’t hurting them is not love.
    I hope this makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Vickie. The two verses you highlighted had to deal with professed believers who sin. If they are actively sinning, confronted on it, and refuse to stop, they need to leave the church until they repent and correct their actions.

    These verses, of course, should not be used when regarding unbelievers. In the case you mentioned, the church should be open to unbelievers living in sin, but under certain conditions. First, they should be allowed to attend services, but not allowed to join the church or have any role in the church.

    Second especially those from the LGBTQ+ community, should, again, be permitted to attend services (and even small groups and Sunday School classes), but be respectful of biblical mandates. In other words, they should be mindful of not outwardly showing affection, as a married couple would, and should not expect to be “accepted” in contrast to biblical mandate.

    Therefore, unbelievers should be encouraged to attend church, but not be permitted to act any way they want. Also, the church should lovingly but boldly make clear what sin is, and if that offends the unbelievers, that’s on them. Hopefully, however, powerful teaching on sin will convict the unbelievers and encourage them to repent and give their lives to Christ.

    Good thought-provoking post, Vickie.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I think you ask some good questions, Vickie. I was thinking through something similar myself this morning, as I was invited to lunch to with a gentleman from a local church who describes himself as a ‘queen’., though he currently lives alone.
    In the first scripture you reference, the words that struck me were – treat him as you would a pagan – but how would one treat a pagan? Presumably with as much love, mercy and generosity as Jesus would? I have personally never known a person be kicked out of church.
    I think, as you said, there are requirements and expectations of those holding office in the church – that their example and behaviour is appropriate and that they also model the humility, compassion, mercy and inclusive generosity as befitting a follower of Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If each sinner were to be kicked out of church, then no one would be able to come to church. We all have sin; as Christians, we are to be resolved to follow Jesus, repent, and live a life giving glory to God. Not all Christians are, of course, and therein lies the problem: What to do. We must be more willing to come alongside a struggling Christian than we are to respond with outrage and shunning.
    I agree with Annie, that if a person has been lovingly confronted as directed in Matthew 18, but continues living in blatant, unrepentant sin; then that person should be removed from membership, but not necessarily “kicked out.” If that person causes intentional strife and division among the people in church, then that person may be asked to leave.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I must admit I agree with Kathy, there would be no one at church because we are all first sinners, then saved by grace. Someone told me about the Lord, someone invested in my life, someone led me to a personal relationship with the Lord. We all need to know, but who will tell if no one goes? The church is the best environment for the sinner because there is where they hear about the love of God and it should also be the best environment to demonstrate to all

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said, Brenda! We can’t be a real church without sinners in it because that’s what we all are, saved by grace, and hopefully leading others to salvation instead of judging them harshly.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Guess I’ll lose followers for this comment but I have to respond Vickie…

    First off no where in the passage you shared does is say that the offender was a church member. They sinned against YOU not the church as you yourself stated. If you go to them and let them know what they have done, they listen and ask for your forgiveness then all is good. If not, you should bring another friend with you and address the situation. If they apologize and ask for forgiveness then it’s all good. If not then take it to a pastor as most even unbelievers respect pastors…well they did back in the day…take the pastor with you to address the offender and if they realize their mistake and apologize and ask for your forgiveness all is good. But IF they do not then you are to leave them alone and treat them as a stranger instead of a friend.

    No where does it say to kick them out of the church! (For all you Bible scholars I have a question. Is the word church here translated properly? To my little knowledge the church was not formed when Christ said this.)

    Plus calling out a sin by a pastor like he did is stupid! For one if he is going to call out someone living in sin outside of marriage then he needs to call out those living in sin in marriage.

    Living with someone and having sex before marriage is a sin of course. But so is being married and having an affair.

    If churches start kicking out sinners then no one will be in church and we may as well close up shop.

    Liked by 1 person

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