It Will Hurt Their Feelings…

Guest Author: Chad Martin The church of Christ is a family. Family means different things to different people. Some grew up in bad homes, and so family doesn’t mean much to them. But for most of us, family is a good thing. Our families have been there for us through thick and thin. We love one another. Part of that love involves reaching out with a corrective hand when we make bad choices. As a child my mother would correct me if I was doing something I shouldn’t. If she knew someone was a bad influence, she would not let me hang out with them. If I did something I should not have done, she would correct me. When I became a teenager, my older brother let me know that if he ever caught me doing drugs, he would make me regret it (and I didn’t). Family has a responsibility to be there for one another; and, part of being there sometimes involves correction.

This same principle applies to our church family. We are all one family in Christ. And we have responsibilities towards one another. Paul wrote to the church at Galatia, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1). Just as our physical family has a responsibility to help us get back on track when we stumble, so does our spiritual family.

Sadly, sometimes those in the church don’t see it this way. There have been some situations where someone was clearly involved in sin (not a matter of opinion but what the Bible clearly defines as sin), and good hearted brethren have approached the leaders of the church to reach out to these overtaken brethren in love. The response they got was: “We understand and appreciate your concern. But we are not going to say anything to them. If we say anything to them, it will just hurt their feelings. Then they will leave, and not come back. At least they are coming to the church right now.” This may seem like sound reasoning. After all, the one you are concerned about is “coming to church,” and is “a good person.” But here is the problem: they are living in sin. They have fallen into sin’s trap, and are not making any apparent efforts to get out. This means they are no longer walking in the light. And if they died, their souls would be in danger.

Just as our physical family has a responsibility to keep us on the right track, so does the church. What good is accomplished if, for the sake of sparing their feelings, we allow their eternal soul to be destroyed? We have a clear biblical command to reach out to our erring brother or sister in Christ.

I believe the problem comes into play when we do not follow through with the end of Galatians 6:1, reaching out in a spirit of gentleness. There is a right way and a wrong way to approach someone about their sin. When we approach someone about their sin the wrong way, most likely they will leave, and not come back. When we approach them with a superior attitude of “I’m right, you’re wrong, and you are going to hell,” that doesn’t usually work. When we approach someone in sin, we are to do it in a spirit of gentleness. We are to do so in such a way that they know we are reaching out because we love them. When someone knows you love them, they are usually willing to listen to what you have to say.

There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with sin. The other night I sat in a meeting with someone struggling with sin, and one of our elders. He took the lead during the meeting. In this meeting he told the story of a young lady in a congregation he used to belong to that got pregnant out of wedlock, at age 15. She came to the minister and the elders, and told them of her situation. This congregation could have said, “You are a sinner, and an immoral woman,” and written her off. She would have gone on her way, leaving the church never to return. But that’s not what they did. They had a meeting with her and her parents. They were there for her during her struggles and weakness. She repented, and publicly confessed her sin. The church, like a family, was there for her. She finished school, got a good job, and remained faithful to Christ. Today she is a successful lady, with a beautiful child who loves Jesus, and they are both faithful members of the church.

The church today is still a family, and still has a family’s responsibility towards one another. When we see a brother or sister overtaken in sin we have a responsibility to reach out to them in love. Is there a possibility that their feelings will get hurt? Yes. Is it possible they will leave and not come back? Yes. But that does not justify neglecting your responsibility to reach out to them. There is danger in sin, and we have a God-given responsibility to watch out for one another. We do this in love, and we do this considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted.

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