I’ve recently come to understand that waiting on God’s timing is the most difficult thing a Christian is tasked with. I arrived at this conclusion as I thought about what I perceive as a major problem within our churches. The church, like it or not, runs on a culture of shame. We talk about sin constantly, heck, we only mention forgiveness as a pretext to talk about sin and our over emphasis on sin and our lack of grace push people away from repentance and towards shame. We are actively encouraging people to feel shame. The community has declared itself judge and there are now sins which instead of resulting in an outpouring of grace, prayer and love from the Church will result in your removal from it. It’s important to note this isn’t usually every sin, just the ones that that congregation, for whatever reason, finds particularly distasteful.
There’s three things that are very wrong with this. First, it turns the Church into the unrepentant sinner. The church has become so prideful that it now tries to take on Jesus’ role as Judge. In so doing, it brings on it’s own condemnation. Second, it proves that the Church has no knowledge of the Gospel, “you will know them by their love” and certainly isn’t passing along the grace they claim to have received. Third, it has driven someone whom God loves further away from Him because that person has been taught to run from God and His people when they fail and sin, rather than running towards them for support, grace, and forgiveness.
All these consequences for a want of patience. God’s timing is not our timing. God will, I repeat, will transform the people He wants to transform and the major way He will do this is by surrounding them with His love and His people. This is the lesson of waiting on God. It’s about being OK with someone you know is going to leave and sin sitting in your pews because you understand there is no place God would rather them be. It’s about being comfortable with incremental progress or even no progress at all rather than instantaneous transformation. It’s about being comfortable that you could be wrong, there may be an action you believe to be sin, but if God obviously works in the life of someone and doesn’t touch that “sin” perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate what you believe about that action.
I’m not trying to suggest here that there is no place for confronting a brother. I think there is, but I think it’s FAR more limited in both circumstance and consequence than we often see practiced. In terms of circumstance, let’s examine Matthew 18′s section on confronting a brother. Here the additional witnesses as well as the Church already know of the sin. They are not being informed of the sin for the first time, it’s not gossip, it’s something that’s known in the Community already. The local church is supposed to be that involved in each other’s lives, to have those relationships already built that if a brother begins to slip someone can step in, then others, then the community, all of which have a relationship with the sinner. Moreover, the others and the church are not being brought in for humiliation or their opinions, but rather as instruments of grace to pray for and with the sinner and to offer love, support and overwhelming grace. The community is coming together to try and help this person. But if that help is refused, the punishment isn’t ex-communication or dis-fellowship, but removal from authoritative positions. Sinners of all stripes, pagans, gentiles, tax collectors we’re all welcomed by Jesus. He wanted to preach to them, in fact he came for them! There is no place God would rather a sinner be than at a church. We need to remember that. God would always have us welcome the sinner.