We write this article with more of a sorrowful heart as we have seen the trend in Christianity to kill its wounded or to act unjustly as they handle spiritual matters. Too often a Christian or church wants to be seen as spiritual and doing what God says but in the end, they look as they are. Following the secular world and their thinking.
We are going to use the following story as an example only
And to be honest, we are not caring whether or not the pastor and church in the article are truly Christian or not. Their theological beliefs are not the issue here. Their actions are as they represent what so many in the Christian world do. The secular world thinks that past sins are unforgivable and must be penalized in the harshest ways. This is not right and it is even wrong when churches do it.
Then, of course, we are not going to be saying that it is okay to purposefully commit sin and then seek forgivness later. That is not the intent of this post either. Sins must be dealt with properly. The issue is that these sins should not be held over the heads of believers, including pastors, missionaries and other church leaders for all time.
When sins have been dealt with correctly 20 years, 10 years, 5 years and so on in the past, there is no room for them to be held over the believer’s head today. No one is looking spiritual by being unjust and punishing past sins. Churches should remember that to expect perfection from imperfect people is unrealistic. Pastors, missionaries, church leaders are not perfect and to demand perfection from them is not godly, spiritual or even biblical. It is something Jesus did not demand either.
We look to Peter’s denial of Christ as our biblical example here. Peter committed a grievous sin not once but 3 times in one night. Yet Jesus did not count that as enough to bar Peter from his future ministry. In fact, Peter went on to be one of the most powerful leaders the church has known. Jesus did not use the removal of employment as a punishment. The grief and sorrow that Peter felt was real and punishment enough.
We could make the excuse that Peter was not filled with the Holy Spirit at the time but that won’t work. Later in the book of Acts, we read how a Spirit-filled Peter sinned again and Paul took Peter to task about it. Again, the removal of employment was not on the table as a proper punishment. Nor was the removal of spiritual influence.
Jesus used both incidents as a way to make Peter into the leader he was supposed to be. Then there is Paul. His past sins were not used to bar him from providing more teaching to God’s people or from making him a powerful missionary. They were used by God to develop Paul into being that wonderful instrument that he was.
Oh, we know that there are many in the church who will do this for the accepted believer. The ones that are liked, etc., but we also know that far too many churches withhold this redemptive process from those believers who for some reason or other do not meet human ideals. These unaccepted people are robbed from developing into the men and women God wants them to be by their fellow believers.
Now again, we are not advocating that church people go out and sin so that sin may be used to develop them. That is misguided thinking. Nor are we advocating that forgiveness replaces discipline and punishment. Both are needed for the redemptive process. Jesus used both on Peter and Paul. But he also employed wisdom, understanding, foresight and many other Christian attributes human believers are to employ.
Discernment, free from bias, has to be part of the process here. That attribute needs to double-check the repentance of the fallen and see that their sorrow etc., is real and life changing. But it is a spiritual, godly discernment not a personal human one that does this.
We do not advocate the removal of employment as a first choice in combating past or even present sins. There are situations that may call for it and that is understandable. But to kill our wounded is not biblical nor of Christ. We need to heal the wounds first, and help use them to develop men and women into true godly people. Focusing on the sin only is too narrow of a picture. We need to see these problems from God’s perspective and see the whole picture.
But again, that is not an excuse for the Church to withhold proper redemptive processes from those who make sinful mistakes.We need compassion, wisdom, and God’s input to make sure we do not lose members of God’s kingdom no matter where their membership lies. From the lowest member to the highest member, all need the just and proper handling of their sins so that they can develop into strong followers of God.
Our actions may not please the unchurched world but that is okay. We are not to please them anyway. We do what God wants, please God and he will reward us for obedience. The world cannot reward us, so ignore their thinking and opt for God’s. Do church discipline correctly for all people not just a few. Remember, the secular world seeks vengeance, revenge and a way to hurt the offender. God wants to redeem the offender not lose him or her to evil.