What do you do when you find out that a brother or sister in Christ is involved in a sin? Maybe they cheated someone or they are into sexual immorality or they are caught in a lie or they stole something or you found them drunk. It happens. Do you look the other way and ignore the problem? Do you tell yourself that you can’t judge someone else? Are you happy that God’s grace is great enough to cover all sins and let them continue doing what they are doing? Strangely enough, it seems that is what the Corinthian church had done. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.”
There are at least three reasons why you cannot sit by and let your brother or sister continue to sin. First, the light of Christ as reflected by the church will be darkened. When those outside the church see the sin of one within the church, they will be greatly discouraged from wanting to accept Christ as their savior. You should want those outside to be attracted to Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:11-12 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Second, if not dealt with, sin can spread throughout the church. That is what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:6 “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” Others in the church who see the sins of one may be emboldened to commit similar sins.
Third, you should be concerned for the salvation of the sinner’s soul. James 1:14-15 “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” If your brother or sister who is sinning does not repent, their sin will result in spiritual death and eternal separation from God. Out of love for the sinner, you should want them to repent. Go to them and appeal to them to stop their sinning and repent. Perhaps they are blinded and cannot see the seriousness of their sin. Perhaps your going to them will motivate them to repent.
But what if they persist in their sin? Then the church must follow the instruction given by Paul to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ‘put away from yourselves the evil person.’” The church must put away such a sinner. You should not keep company with the sinner. You should not even eat with such a person.
Why do you and the church take such drastic action? Because you love the sinner but hate the sin. You love the sinner so much that you are willing to not keep company with them or even eat with them. You are doing this to get the attention of the sinner and motivate them to stop their sinning and repent. Consider what would likely happen if you accepted the sinner in their sin and took no action. They would likely continue in their sin. Based upon your acceptance of them, they would not be motivated to change their way. But you love them so much that you are willing to not keep company with them or even eat with them. You will do almost anything to get them to repent, because you love their soul.
The Corinthian church obeyed the apostle Paul relative to the sexually immoral man and apparently he repented. Paul had to encourage the Corinthians to accept him back and reaffirm their love for him. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”
When you discover a brother or sister caught in sin, I encourage you to deal with them in tough love so that they may repent and return to God. Love the sinner but hate the sin.