2009-08-06 - Winning Your Brother Back
Matt 18:15-18 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. (NASB)
I wanted to add a few thoughts to Tim's excellent devotion from yesterday. It is a huge topic and Tim did an outstanding job to keep the focus to the question. The question was regarding a very severe case where an adulterous relationship had become public. The couple in question were no longer hiding their actions. The answer jumps to the end of the process described in Matt 18:15-18 where there has already very likely been a private and very careful confrontation, and a second with witnesses before the church is brought into the problem. I don't know of situations where a person is placed in front of the congregation and asked to repent. They may exist but I am not aware of them. The most public involvement I have witnessed is the reading to the congregation of a brief letter of dismissal from membership written to the persons involved without commentary. This was done only after months of work to restore the persons involved to their confession of faith.
The word "confrontation" is chosen carefully. It is not to be pounding fists on table tops and pointing fingers, but to confront what is almost certainly a painful and difficult issue. Throughout the process the matter must be done with great compassion, much prayer and loving concern for the people involved both directly and indirectly. There needs to be a great deal of certainty before the discussion begins. Once the church is involved the way it has been handled in my experience is to engage portions of the pastoral staff in counseling and discussions with the person or persons involved.
I love the phrase used in the first verse - "if he listens, you have won your brother." If there is admission and real repentance, turning away from the sinful situation, there is a lot of reason to be thankful to God who will have paved the way. The matter has been handled privately and recovery can be dealt with the same way with friends praying and honestly talking and making sure things stay in the right road. When the matter is not handled well the person being confronted can feel threatened and be defensive. If it comes to the point were there is denial or refusal to walk away from whatever the situation is, then bring a very small number of trustworthy people with you to pray and discuss the matter. Great care and concern becomes even more critical. The earlier a break through occurs, obviously, the better. Again if there is repentance the matter has been handled and will continue to be handled through recovery privately.
The last phase would be to involve the church leadership directly. This can be extremely delicate. If this fails the final actions are very drastic. In the situation where the sin has become very public the reputation of the church as an organization and its members is at stake. If they will not take action, or worse try to sweep it under the rug, the church will be seen ineffective at best and hypocritical at worst. They will lose their witness to the communities around them. The also do the persons directly involved a great disservice allowing them to continue in behavior that is far from the best that God has for us. It allows them to justify their actions against the Word of God.
This whole process, which can go on for some time, is about offering someone who is caught and trapped in sin a way out. It is not about beating them into submission, but restoring them to their confession and their relationship with God and their friends. Compassion for family members and friends who are indirectly involved is also obviously important. Making sure they are counseled and prayed for as well is important to their emotional and spiritual health.
Winning a brother or sister back from bad choices that lead them into sin is vital to the church. We are all frail human beings who can be tempted and stumble. Sometimes we fall very hard. It often happens over time with the best intentions at the start. It is when you find yourself in over your head that you know who your truest friends are. They will sit with you and listen with your best at heart and hurt with you because they care. They pray for you helping to light the way back to the straight and narrow path.
Grace & Peace,