Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
So, where did we leave off last time? Well, we had discussed our sinning brother. We had gone and talked to our sinning brother. Our prayer had been that he would simply acknowledge what had been going on, repent, and move in a different direction. Sadly, he or she has not. In fact, they have simply ignored our Biblically based counsel and chosen to continue openly and rebelliously on their chosen path. Now what?
Does it really matter that much? Yes, it does. We have covered that pretty completely and I hope arrived at the quite Scriptural conclusion that the transgressions of our brothers and sisters do matter, and sometimes have to be addressed. They may be hurting themselves or another person. Even if they are not, harm is certainly done to both Jesus’ work and His church by open, notorious, and unrepented sin among it’s members.
Since this matters very much to our Lord, He gave us fairly clear instructions on how to progress when a sinning brother chooses to continue in there sin. Here, again is our process:
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. Basically, our brother or sister has ignored us, and we have not won him back, and further action in this matter is needed. Who are the one of two others? Who should that be? Why more people?
So, who should deal with an erring brother? Well, I look and look and don’t find a set pattern for who that should be. Is it the responsibility of the leadership of a church, such as Deacons or Elders? Perhaps. Is it the responsibility for those close to the erring brother or sister? Perhaps. I think it just depends on the nature and character of what is going on to a certain extent.
Let’s say a man or woman is cheating on their spouse, and their circle of friends has become aware of it. That might be the perfect time for those friends to intervene and confront their friend. On the other hand, let us say a person is engaging in malicious and unfounded rumor spreading about the pastor. Perhaps that would be a time for church leadership to step in and say something. Either way, we must always remember the goal here is repentance, a change of behavior, and restoration of the erring person. We are not to approach as if we are the morality police, come to punish the wayward criminal. Personally, I think confronting a situation at the lowest possible level is likely the best way to handle things.
Why two or three more? Well we can see a couple of examples of this thought elsewhere in God’s Word:
Deuteronomy 19:15 A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.
1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
If the issue being discussed is an offense from one believer to another, perhaps the presence of several people can mediate the offense and bring all parties back to fellowship with one another. If readers recall, that is precisely happened at my own house after the big boom there. If that happens, the problem is solved, and all becomes well. Problems cannot always be solved, and in that case the presence of more than one person can serve several purposes. It can prevent the unfair and unfounded accusation of wrongdoing by one person against another. It can also provide corroboration of transgressions if a person simply will not repent and turn from their sin.
Again..and again…and yet again. I will say again that the objective of this entire process is not to punish wrong doing. We are, as I have repeated, not the morality police. God is the judge of our hearts, and our actions and only He is authorized to administer justice to a believer. We always have to maintain the focus on what we are trying to accomplish here: repentance and restoration.
Well, there we have it. Our brother or sister is sinning, and will not admit and repent of their activity. We have talked to them privately and we have talked to them by committee so to speak. If things change, that is wonderful and an answered prayer. But, what if they don’t? What then?