Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Last time, we left our post with a couple of questions:
When our brother sins. Against who? Are we talking about brother to brother offenses or just sin in general?
If the sin or offense is not against us, is it even our business?
Now, let me explain what I mean as best as I can! I want to reference my friend Don Merritt again for a really good explanation of just who the offense in question might be against. Maybe I am being lazy here, but he did a great job of discussing this. I agree totally with his assessment that a case could be made either way about the offense in question. I also agree with his conclusion that it may not really matter just who the offended and/or sinned against party really is. Any sin on the part of our brethren may harm us personally, may harm another of the brethren, or may be harmful to the Kingdom. They are all certainly grievous and wounding to God, aren’t they?
Is our brother’s sin really any of our business? Isn’t that really between him or her and God? I have to vote yes on both of those questions. Of course Jesus is our ultimate judge, and we are told not to judge any one. We are not to pronounce judgment on another person. We don’t know any person’s heart, nor can we be in the business of telling them if they are right with God or not. We can go to Galatians 5 and read all about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. The only reason I bring that up is the phrase I have heard, “We aren’t to judge, but we can be fruit inspectors.”
That really doesn’t answer why though, now does it? Why is the sin of our brother’s and sister’s really any of our business?
Our sinning brother or sister may be harming themselves. We are our brother’s keeper. That means as brothers and sisters of a person, we have a responsibility to help them keep themselves out of harm’s way. Many behaviors which we would classify as sin, are in fact harmful physically and/or emotionally to the person committing them. We would certainly be withing bounds to help them out of that situation.
Our sinning brother or sister may be harming US! We are, as The Bible teaches, to forgive even the believer who sins directly against us. Period. That doesn’t mean we have to expose ourselves to their offense or even let them continue in that offense. The gossiper is a good example. If our brother or sister is gossiping about us, the attempt to make this offense stop is certainly within bounds.
Our sinning brother or sister may be harming another. The cheating businessman, or the man abusing his wife may not be harming himself or us, but he is certainly harming others and correcting them on this behavior is certainly withing bounds.
Finally, our sinning brother or sister may be harming the the Kingdom, and the witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a reason so many think our churches are full of hypocrites; sometimes they are. It’s simply not good for the testimony of our churches for members to come to church on Sunday morning and act like an angel, then for the rest of the week act like the devil himself. Dealing with church members who engage in open and notorious sin is certainly within bounds.
Great! We have concluded here that, yes, sin among the brethren is not just their business, but likely OUR business. Now what? We run out and talk about them amongst ourselves, then toss them out on the street, right?
Well, no, not really.
Coming up: A story of a restoration