Let me clarify with a story…
A long time ago…
I had the distinct displeasure of confronting an issue in our corps.
It was unpleasant.
It was sad.
I was extremely disappointing.
Two people were carrying on with a relationship even though one of them was married (to another person).
The entire church knew about it.
I was even asked by a retired pastor if I was going to do something about the situation.
I wasn’t sure what to do at first. I’ve never been afraid of confrontation. I usually don’t back down from such situations, in fact I have to be careful…if I’m brutally honest. I had been praying about this issue. Praying for a simple, (less messy) solution…but none came. Finally I rounded the bend in our church hallway and caught them. Right then and there I confronted them. It wasn’t so much the scene of Jesus turning over tables in the temple, but it sure felt close to that in my heart. I felt (and still do) very sad about the situation. Here were two grown, mature adult Christians caught up in a sin and neither would admit to any wrong doing. We began to have an intense moment of fellowship, if you know what I mean. I was angry with them but at the same time very, very sad. They were obstinate and aggressive in their defense of their situation. Suddenly it became everyone else’ fault…I honestly wasn’t looking to play the blame game. I had not been praying for a direct confrontation like this, yet here it was. Confrontation is never comfortable or enjoyable, and if it ever becomes comfortable and enjoyable then something is very wrong. I hated it. I wanted to be somewhere else other than right there in that moment, and yet I couldn’t be. How could the church grow, continue to confess sin, fellowship in a healthy way and love one another with discipline and accountability when THIS elephant in the room was looming largely?
Sadly, circumstances were not recoverable…at least to my knowledge (I still hold out hope for reconciliation). Both decided to go elsewhere to church. I was even given an ultimatum – “apologize to us, or we won’t come back to church“…really? I’m sorry, but I won’t apologize to sin. I just can’t. I can’t compromise like that. Sin has a way of blinding us of our faults. Sin has a way of shifting the blame, making us less aware of wrong doing while rationalizing it away until it’s okay and it’s someone else’ problem.
I never once said that they had to leave the corps. They weren’t “kicked out”. Amidst the confrontation I was painfully aware of grace and love…but I (we, the corps council) expected more from them because they were a part of our corps family. Isn’t it like that with family? The level of expectations are always higher because “family” should know better, should act better.
I keep thinking about the woman caught in adultery in Jesus’ day…Pharisees and teachers of the law drag this woman to Jesus. Seriously, where was the guy who was caught as well?…doesn’t it take two to tango?..I digress.
These Pharisees want to trap Jesus while at the same time satisfying their blood thirsty need for “justice”. Jesus, confronted with this issue, stoops down and writes in the sand. Then after writing, doodling, naming the pharisees…I don’t know what He wrote, Jesus looks at the accusers and says “He who is without sin cast the first stone…” – They depart. The leave. They don’t linger. Something remarkable happens. I would call it a miracle. But the story isn’t over yet. Yes, the blood thirsty accusers are gone, but the guilty woman still stands there. Can you imagine the shame and embarrassment that she must have felt? The man she was with apparently does the walk of shame home without any other consequence, while she is caught, dragged, confronted in front of most of the town…how embarrassing and utterly horrifying!
Finally, Jesus stands up and looks around and then to her and says, almost sarcastically surprised, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” She says to Him, “No, Lord“…and then amazingly Jesus replies; “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)
No Judgement…but Don’t Apologize to Sin…
Let’s face it, we are all susceptible to sin. If we believe that we are impervious to sin, watch out and beware! I’m not trying to scare anyone here, it is just a reality. We still struggle with this fallen life. Temptation is all around us. How we deal with these temptation defines how deep our spiritual maturity in Christ goes. There is fine line in our walk with Christ in becoming a Pharisee and addressing real sin issues within the body of believers. If done correctly, spiritual discipline and correction can become a life line of saving grace to someone caught in sin. If done incorrectly, we throw adulterers, liars and cheats before Jesus while avoiding love, grace, compassion and understanding and/or facing our own hypocritical sinful selves.
The correct way desires to address spiritual issues, make one stronger in the faith, hold each other accountable for the purpose of building each other up in love, grace and compassion. The incorrect way only serves to empower the accuser, demand judgement, criticizing immorality while avoiding any accountability of ones own actions. We have to be careful how we conduct ourselves as accountability partners and leaders in our corps!
No…we can’t apologize to sin…but we can lovingly correct, share the burden of leadership with others. Pray for reconciliation, confession, and forgiveness. We were never meant to be judge, jury and executioners in our corps…but we must hold each other accountable and bring each other back from places of sin with the power of the Holy Spirit. We can’t ignore critical issues in our corps. We can’t pretend they don’t exist. We can’t bury our heads in the sand when elders, local officers and soldiers (even officers) trip and fall. If we have any love in us for Christ and for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, then we will fight tooth and nail to seek reconciliation and restoration…until that time, don’t stop praying intercessory prayer for each other!
Something more for our Army World to Ponder today.
In a remarkably similar situation, I was a spouse of one of the “sinners”. Because the other “sinner” was a S.A. officer, the confrontation by the organization did result in action. Therein, the officer was re-assigned miles away. That action did stop the root cause of the officers sinning. It did not even break the sinful relationship.
Although the corps folks were aware of the relationship, all knowledge was kept secret from me until 3 years later. (The officer attended a conference locally and re-engaged.) 28 years later through a terrible marriage, my spouse announced that a divorce going to happen so they could get married.
My point is, yes, one should never apologize to sin but what purpose does openly confronting someone else’s sin accomplish
So sorry to hear of your situation. I can’t even to begin to understand being on the end of a situation like yours. I believe the purpose for confronting someone’s sin is for the purpose of honesty and integrity within the body of Christ. If an individual is an elder, a local officer, soldier and even an officer we have a standard to uphold. As painful as it may be, we have to hold one another accountable to that even to the point of God-honoring confrontation. I know it doesn’t always end well, but to ignore such a moral failure is to allow it to remain within the corps and thereby disrupt any possible growth that corps might have. So sorry to hear of your situation. Blessings on you!
having been in a corps where a situation occurred and no one confronted it until too late. it tore our corps apart. People had trusted them and felt betrayed
I have seen the same thing happen in other churches as well. A much needed reminder of what we all need to do no matter where we fellowship.