A Question of Forgiveness

A while ago someone asked me how I felt a situation should be handled. The following is a modified version of my response. It has some fairly technical points and is extremely religious in nature. It is important to understand this addresses situations BETWEEN CHURCH MEMBERS.

Let us assume there is a situation where a Christian is accused of a crime. That crime may affect other people, but was done at some point in the past. How should the Church address this situation. It is a question of forgiveness. But it is also a question of church procedure.

First off, it is important to note that sin often has long-ranging, unintended, and often unexpected results. The person who lies does not intend for anything it to go on yet it has a way of expanding. Perhaps it reaches the ears of someone not intedned to hear it and causes them grief. Perhaps it alters someone elses perception of the world and leads them into danger. Another possibility is it might completely redefine the perception people have of the character of the person caught in that lie. Once a person has lost their credibility there is great harm done to the cause of Christ.

The lie might not stop causing problems as some section of church members elect to ignore truth and accept a lie even if the lie is admitted to and repented of. Lies have a way of taking on a life of their own. Nor is it necessary to just be discussing a lie. Perhaps it is immorality. It might even be immorality within the church.

I think this would be a good time to read I Corinthians chapters 5 and 6. It is important to get the context. Those chapters say a lot about how to deal with immorality within the church. They also have a lot to say about the necessity of handling things within the church and not allowing the world to determine who is and is not acceptable. It is the Church that needs to deal with issues that arise between members of the Church. There is no excuse for church members to be in court with one another under any circumstances.

And I think perhaps THE key verse of the passage is I Corinthians 6:11.

Romans 6 now comes into play. There is a distinct line between the old man of sin and the deeds done there and the new man. See also Galations 2:20.

So the question arises...rather, 2 questions are before us. Let us assume a Christian commits some sin that harms another Christian.

1) Has the offender repented of his sin?

2) Have the Christians accepted that repentance?

So how do we know if we can accept that repentance? As is best in these situations, I believe the best answer is found in Scripture.

James 2:12-13 seems to speak fairly clearly to this. In fact, this is a theme throughout Scripture. Twice in Matthew Jesus said something like this:

"But if you had known what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent." Matthew 12:7. And context is important, read the entire chapter, but this verse is the key.

Previously in chapter 9 He had already referred to this quote:
11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?"
12But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.
13"But go and learn what this means: I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Therefore it is clear. If someone has sinned, the Christian response is compassion, an attempt to turn them back from the path they have taken, and prayer (James 5:13 through the end of the chapter); however, there must be certainty. Suspicion does not equal sin. A person's conjectured desire does not equal sin except as so judged by God and God alone:
Pslam 44:21, Luke 16:15, Acts 15:8, Romans 8:27
God knows the heart. Man does not.

I believe even a cursory glance at Scripture will reveal proper Christian behavior: compassion and mercy over judgment, Galatians 6:1-2 is a HUGELY important key, as are Galatians 5:22-25 and II Peter 1, and really key in on verse 7 will reveal the Godly attitude.

Namely, do not look for problems. When you find them, do everything you can to help a brother. If you cannot help them, work harder at it trying to have the attitude Jesus taught that mercy and compassion are more important than judgment.

I believe part of this concept would include an attitude of not seeking out opportunities to "catch" someone in wrong doing. If they are doing wrong and it is brought to your attention then yes, by all means deal with it. But if it is something you have to play detective to discover...maybe you need to let that issue lay and go take a look at yourself.

No comments: