Are we guilty of walking and talking very softly with brethren who have sinful practices or who uphold and fellowship sinful doctrines or practices? When we hear those overused threats that you’re going to “upset a whole family”, you’re going to “cause church trouble”, you’re going to “drive people away”, or even worse to some, that you’re going to “lose your preaching job”, will we be guilty of “holding back” in boldly teaching and preaching the truth regarding the sinful practices in which brethren are engaged? Do we “hold back” when it comes to rebuke and admonitions to individual brethren who are participants in worldly and sinful conduct? What are we willing to say to brethren whom we know to tell lies, curse or use corrupt speech, dance, drink alcohol, live in fornication, or who’re engaged in lewd or sensual dress or life? What are we saying to those who allow the fellowship of adulterous relationships, those who justify the fellowship of those who teach or practice error, or those who willfully forsake their assembling with the saints for worship? Are we of the same mind as the apostle Paul when he expressed these words: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27).
Have we digressed to a “live and let live” attitude when it comes to brethren and sinful practices? No, we’re never going to intentionally try to irritate our brethren, but neither are we going to “shrink back” from openly pleading with them to bring their lives in harmony with God’s commandments. Hebrews 10:35-39 says, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
But there is still another very important issue that enters into this picture. Do we “hold back” from helping brethren who’re involved in sinful teaching or practices because of our own hypocrisy? Do we recognize that our own life isn’t what God expects of a Christian, and therefore we feel that we’re not in a position to tell others that they need to correct their lives? Do you suppose that this factor could be involved in soft preaching and nothing being said by so many believers about so many sinful practices being overlooked among God’s saints? That’s really a sad thought, isn’t it? This situation will always result in a “live and let live” attitude, and ultimately in digression from the Truth and the acceptance of every kind of unlawful practice. There’s absolutely no place for hypocrisy in a Christian’s life. But we’re aware that when some are reluctant to expose and correct sinful matters in brethren’s lives, it could be that they know more about their own individual lives than we do. Matthew 23:28 says, “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”.
Yes, telling disciples the truth may possibly irritate or anger them, but it may also make them recognize their sinful and unrighteous condition. Is it better to let them remain in a lost condition? Do we profess to love them and deeply care as to where they spend eternity? Would we want someone to reach out for us if we were the one who had lost our way? Fear of helping one another can result in a dangerous decision on our part. Are you and I willing to risk an irritation of our brethren’s feelings if it would result in “pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23)?
Brethren, it’s indeed time for each one of us to come face to face with these very serious matters. Paul admonished, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:11-14). We first need to look very closely at our own heart and life, and then we need to develop the desire and courage to speak to others who’re in great need of our assistance (Galatians 6:1-2).
Adapted from Dennis L. Reed