Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 1 Timothy 5:19-20 (NIV).
God keeps it real. There’s a real temptation to think of the Bible as a bunch of quaint and helpful ancient stories but not applicable in our time. Check that temptation at the door, my friend. Your God, your Savior Jesus, is real. He’s in your face and heart He deals with contemporary problems in our day and time the same as He did in His own day and time in 1st Century Judea (indeed, all the way back to Eden). It’s impossible to think that Jesus’ Spirit lives and works through us and not accept that He’s dealing with the issues we’re dealing with as we deal with them.
One of those is that some of our church leaders – indeed, our leaders in any group – are sinners like me and you. Some of them (us) have done some pretty awful things.
There’s the teacher who’s having an affair. There’s the treasurer who occasionally dips into the till because bills are tight in their home. There’s the pious elder who’s a model of propriety but gives the single-finger salute to that guy in the left lane. There’s the leader who teaches Sunday School but is also known for some pretty colorful language with their ‘posse’ or online. Could be you, could be me; could also be the people we’ve entrusted to run our churches, projects, and other endeavors. Sometimes truly destructive behavior intersects with our lives.
How does Paul remind us to deal with that? Matthew 18: go to them privately and confront them with what’s on your heart. If they won’t listen, then gradually escalate, yet do so with the heart of wanting to be Jesus’ representative. In all this, we are to act in love, in respect. We can despise what someone does without disrespecting them. There’s usually a side or story we don’t fully know.
For these times, God gives us those instructions (from Jesus Himself) in Matthew 18. Speak privately, take a witness, and if there’s no repentance (or worse), go public. Again, do it all with caring, no other motivation.
Allah wouldn’t do that. Buddha would have you ignore it. Many churches would say it isn’t enough. But God gives us practical ways to deal with delicate situations while doing so through the love of His Son in His Spirit. Got skin? Got sin; we sinners do some wicked things. Jesus loves us anyway, then moves our hearts so we may change. How real is it, too, that He doesn’t simply smite us but offers us a path home instead?
For further reading: Matthew 18:15-17, 2 Timothy 4:2, Acts 11:30, Titus 1:13, Deuteronomy 13:11, 1 Timothy 5:21.
My Lord, You are worthy of praise for giving us ways to deal with each other!