“Sin is sin,” we are sometimes told. Thus, it is concluded that all sins should be dealt with the same way.
But is this true? I think not. Let’s notice:
1. Personal, Private Matters between Two Brethren (Matthew 18:15-17).
Step one – Go reason with your brother. Communication with him, not gossip to others, is what is needed. The motive in approaching him should not be to “let him have it,” but “gain your brother”.
Step two – Visit with one or two others. This accomplishes a few things: it (a) demonstrates to the offender the seriousness of the situation; (b) provides witnesses to what is said; (c) provides ideally impartial arbitrators; (d) helps establish the facts; and (e) provides another opportunity for reconciliation.
Step three – The matter is set forth before the church, if, and only if, sin has been determined and the offender does not confess his wrongs and repent. The church should now involve itself in reasoning with the brother.
Step four – Christian fellowship ceases until repentance occurs. Many souls could be saved if we did things God’s way.
2. General Disorderliness (2 Thessalonians 3).
Step one – They had received initial teaching on the matter (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Step two – Some time later, they were again instructed on the matter (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
Step three – The brethren were urged to get involved in this warning (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Step four – Fellowship is withdrawn (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 10, 12).
Note: This did not drag on for years and years.
3. A Divisive Person (Titus 3:10).
Step one – warn.
Step two – warn.
Step three – reject.
Note: This is dealt with in fewer steps. Anyone dividing brethren unnecessarily, and sowing discord needs swift action. Delay could destroy the local church.
4. Shocking/Egregious Sin (1 Corinthians 5).
One step – “deliver such a one to Satan…. I have written to you not to keep company” (1 Corinthians 5:5, 11). This does not involve multiple steps. Immediate action was needed. Even the non-Christian did not commonly so behave (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). This situation could (a) bring reproach upon the whole church; (b) corrupt the church (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).
5. False Teachers (Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 John 9-11).
One step – “note and avoid” (Romans 16:17), “from such withdraw” (1 Timothy 6:5); “do not receive him into your house nor greet him” (2 John 10). There are not multiple steps. Immediate action is needed. False teachers should not be tolerated, or in any way encouraged.
I conclude, from these different passages, that while all sin is serious, not all sin is to be handled in the same manner. May God give us wisdom in this area.