One Sinner, One Body

Imagine that there is a fellow member of your local church named Clyde. For the past four Friday nights you’ve seen Clyde drunkenly stumbling out of downtown bar. Concerned about the spiritual state of Clyde and the repudiation of your church, you approach Clyde and admonish him from the Scriptures about the sinfulness of his drunkenness.

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;  and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

Galatians 5:15-21

“Mind your business!” is his retort. The next week you once again see Clyde stumbling out of the bar. Again, you approach Clyde and ask him to repent but he sternly refuses. Considering your Christian obligation as explained by Jesus in Matthew 18, you seek out two brothers from your church, Karl and John, to approach Clyde with you about his drunkenness.

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 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. 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.

Matthew 18:15-17

“Who are you to throw stones?” Karl asks you upon being approached. “Yeah, none of us are without sin,” adds John. “Judge not lest you be judged. All of us have had a little too much to drink before. We don’t need to act like Pharisees. If we call Clyde out like this he might stop coming to church altogether.” Karl and John refuse to go with you to again call Clyde to repentance. You begin to think it was a mistake to even say anything with which to begin.

Karl and John are right about one thing. There is no one in the church without sin (Romans 3:23). Surely God knows this, as it is his word. Did Jesus therefore set Christians up to be hypocrites when he told them to show sinning brothers their faults? Did he contradict himself when he said “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged?? (Matthew 7:1)? Of course not. Karl and John don’t understand the Scriptures and the corporate nature of the church. While every individual in the church is a person who sins, the church as a whole is a holy body, dedicated to the glory of God. When one brother falls into the sin, it is the body of Christ which is equipped and duty-bound to restore him. Consider the words of Paul to the Galatians:

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5For each one will bear his own load. “

Galatians 6:1-5

Approaching Clyde about his drunkenness is not “being a pharisee,” it is “fulfilling the law of Christ.” This actually the loving thing to do for the sake of your brother’s soul. Jesus did not teach in Matthew 7 never to judge but rather to judge righteously.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:5

If you’ve looked at yourself and submitted to the corporate accountability of the church, you are in a just and proper position to go your brother and hold him accountable for his sin, in the hopes that he will repent and be restored to a right relationship with God and His church. It is the church to which Jesus gave the authority to judge:

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Matthew 18:19-20

Being a part of the body of Christ, a member of the local church, is essential to living a life that is pleasing to God. Not only does it put you in a position to be held accountable by other members of the family of God but it puts you in a position to love your neighbor by keeping him accountable for walking humbly and righteously before the Lord. If there is a Clyde in your life, don’t ignore him.

Don’t fall prey to the “judge not culture,” it’s a culture of self-centeredness. Instead, remember that Christianity is a religion, yes it’s a religion, that puts its members in covenant community with one another. You are personally and wholly responsible for your own sin, no one but you will bear the punishment for it. However, your sin is not merely between you and God. Always remember that and you will be more successful in following the two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant