Bible with Cross ShadowIn our last article on the sayings of Jesus, we discovered that His “judge not” is the pronouncement of guilt, sentence and punishment for the sin in our brother (or sister). Such judgment is reserved for God. We also learned that this saying does not excuse us from our responsibility to lovingly help our brother identify and remove the sin in His life. In fact, Jesus immediately described the first step in that restoration process.

Here we will learn the process for helping our brother find the grace to live a life without sin, for his benefit and that of the church. As we begin, it is important to recognize a few things:

  1. Identifying and addressing the sin in a brother is not judgment. It is an act of love; that he might not face the judgment of God (1Corinthians 5:1-5; James 5:19-20). Conversely, to ignore or accept sin in a brother is to not love him.
  2. To hold our tongue when God has made us aware of sin, makes us guilty of that sin, and subject to God’s judgment of it (Ezekiel 3:16-21).
  3. The primary meaning of krinō is “to separate, put asunder”. This is very similar to the meaning of sanctify: to cleanse, purify and separate from profane things; and dedicate to God. God’s children are to be instruments of sanctification for the church.

This may come as a surprise to you. You may be experiencing a resistance to it – even a strong one. Be encouraged to prayerfully consider your responsibility to your brother, the church and, most of all, to God. One of the primary reasons for the spiritual weakness of the church in America is our failure in this area.

Also, be encouraged that the Father knew the challenge this would be for His children. He graciously gave us a process for it, beginning with our own sanctification.

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

God is intentional and shrewd in His orchestration of our relationships. Very often He puts people in our lives to help us see the sin in ourselves. We would be wise to consider every sin we notice in someone else as a sin God is trying to remove from our own eye. Here’s an interesting thought: The only way to see your eye is in a mirror.

Therefore, once we have noticed a sin in our brother, our first step for his restoration is to ask God to search our hearts; to see if there is any wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24). Whatever time it takes, this step must be completed before moving on.

Repentance (meaning “a change of mind”) is our second step. We must recognize and own our sin. Just to be clear, this is the opposite of ignoring and excusing it. Sadness and shame may follow. I often find myself aggravated with my blindness. These are healthy responses, but they should not weigh us down for long – there is more work to be done.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9

The third step in restoring our brother is to confess our sins to the Father. Confess means “to agree with or concede”. This shouldn’t be difficult if our repentance is real. The heavy lifting is our Father’s work – forgiving our sins and cleansing us (i.e., pulling the plank out of our eye).

Having been sanctified from this sin, we are almost ready to help our brother. Almost, because the manner in which this shift in attention occurs is critically important.

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. Galatians 6:1

Improved vision is not the only qualification we must possess if we are to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. We must also have a spirit of gentleness (a portion of the Spirit’s fruit); and we must be humble in our estimation of ourselves. It is a spiritual reality that the sin in our brother has the potential to cause us to fall back into that same sin.

Therefore, step four in our process is time spent with God, seeking His preparation and protection for the meeting with our brother. This is, once again, a time of heart searching – for anything that may inhibit the Spirit’s gentleness. It is also a time to ensure that our deliverance is complete, and that we are clothed with the full armor of God.

This matter of armor brings another important thought to mind: Our battle is not against flesh and blood. We must have our mind rightly focused against the real enemy. Let’s make this an intentional fifth step.

Now – and only now – we are prepared to meet with our brother.

NOTE: Technically, this marks the end of this saying of Jesus. The following represents the logical continuance of the process; for those that love their brother, and the Lord.

Moreover if your brother sins against you, (6) go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, (7) take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’.  And if he refuses to hear them, (8) tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, (9) let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

This passage has been recognized, since Jesus first said it, as the means of discipline in the church. It is the prescription of our Lord and Master. Dare we ignore it, or invent another? Sadly, it has been so, for quite some time now, in much of the Western church. Recognition and practice are not the same things.

The four steps identified in this passage are fairly straight forward; and become our steps six through nine. There is no need to repeat them here. It is important, however, to recognize the specificity of step six (“between you and him alone“) and step seven (“one or two more”).

It is also important to note that steps eight and nine require discernment based on factors such as the culture and spiritual maturity of the affected fellowship. This is not to say that these steps should be dismissed or ignored. To do so would be to fail in our responsibilities to the unrepentant brother, the church and God.

The last step in the process is as important as the first nine. Paul speaks of it in his second letter to the Corinthians.

 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 1Corinthians 2:6-8

The brother who has sinned – even the one that has been cast from the fellowship – must, in God’s time, be forgiven, comforted and loved again. If he has not repented, he will not receive this mercy and grace. That will be a very sad day, indeed. However, those who are restored will be a joy to all who call him brother; and to his Father in heaven. This joy is the product of our unconditional and sacrificial love for the Father and our brother.

In closing, let us confess that this process is challenging – even intimidating. It requires our being strong in the Lord (Ephesians 4:10). Let us also confess that it is worth it; for in it, Jesus Christ is making His church, and the Bride is making herself ready for the return of Her Beloved.

Yes, it is time we got back to the business of restoration; beginning with our own plank removal.

Humbly yours and forever His,