Let’s make up a scenario* that’s way out there: Dan robs a bank. Not only does he bag money, but he takes three hostages and uses lethal arms. He’s caught, confesses—it’s on closed-circuit cameras for all to see—and is arrested and awaiting trial in jail.
Dan is broken. He’s a Christian, and he sees his sinful actions in the light of day. He writes a confession and an apology to be read at church.
After his conviction, serving time, and getting out of jail, Dan goes back to church.
People treat him like he’s poison. They tell others not to associate with him. Tongues wag. He’s told he can’t do anything in the church ministry because of his past. He can’t sing in the choir, he can’t be an usher; he isn’t allowed to do anything.
What if Dan were your son?
Let’s make up another story.* Kellie is a cute, fun girl. She’s bubbly, and the boys notice her. Kellie begins dating a young man from a good family. In fact, he goes to a church much like hers in a city nearby. They’ve been dating about three months, and the handsome young man takes advantage of Kellie. Several weeks later, she finds out she’s pregnant.
Kellie tells her parents right away, and she makes one of the hardest decisions of her life—to keep her baby. In the meantime, Kellie’s boyfriend moves away and cuts off all communication with her. She admits her sin to her church family and publicly asks their forgiveness. She cries a lot at home, so very sorry for her sin. Her tummy grows. At school, her friends are supportive.
At church, though, Kellie faces a different reaction. Instead of the forgiveness and grace she expected, she hears whispering and finds out that some of her friends’ mothers told their girls not to associate with her any more. Kellie awaits her baby’s birth with the support of her family but not her church.
What if Kellie were your daughter?
Juan* is a drug addict. He grew up in the inner city with pretty rough friends. His cousin introduced him to weed, and he soon graduated to longer-lasting highs. Drugs helped him forget his family situation—if you could call it a family.
Soon, because of petty theft, the police were on to him. Juan was sent to a rehab center to help him beat his habit. The people there were loving and kind. They were strict, too, but it was the first time in Juan’s life that he’d experienced acceptance and love without drugs and strings attached. He began to get clean and to trust.
The people in the rehab center had something else that he’d never seen before: true, deep joy. They said it came from Jesus. He listened, and one day, he accepted Christ as his Savior. His life was changed. After a few months, Juan returned home, a totally different person.
He looked for a church in his section of town and found one that met in a storefront. There, he found that same acceptance and love. People didn’t hold his past against him. He listened and learned and thrived. Today, Juan works with inner-city kids to introduce them to his Lord and Savior. He supervises a workshop, where the kids can come after school, manufacture bags out of salvaged materials, and stay off the streets.
What if Juan were your son?
Where is grace in the Christian community?
If someone has sinned—robbed a bank, committed fornication, done drugs, or whatever—and he’s confessed his sin to God and to the church, what are we supposed to do? Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
Of course, there are sins that will limit participation in church ministries. You can’t let an ex-pedophile work with kids, and you can’t allow someone who doesn’t meet biblical criteria to be a deacon or pastor. We understand those.
But Christians tend to be quick to point fingers and slow to extend grace.
If the person has shown sorrow for his sin and has confessed it and asked forgiveness from the church, Christians are supposed to forgive and restore. That person isn’t toxic. He has done what he should.
The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian church, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
What if Dan, Kellie, or Juan were your son or daughter? How would you want people to treat your child? What if they were in your church? Would you support them as they get back on their feet? Would you give them a chance? Would you show them Christian love?
Sin has terrible consequences, but except for church discipline for unrepentant people, in the Bible you never find judgmental, nasty attitudes encouraged towards Christian brethren (or anyone else).
Let’s be gracious and loving. Let’s restore the broken people around us. (Remember, but for the grace of God, a Dan, Kellie, or Juan could be part of your family. People sin. People make terrible decisions, sometimes.)
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
* These scenarios are completely fictitious. I know no one that even remotely fits these descriptions.