Sin is the biggest danger to a church, of course. But I want to get more specific than that. I want to present to you an extra layer on top of that. It’s something else that’s an even bigger danger.
It’s when people think what’s sinful is actually not sinful at all when they’re confronted.
You see, even though church life is supposed to be a faint taste of the experience of the new creation, sin in the church is always going to rear its ugly head this side of heaven in whatever one you’re in. There’s no escaping it. It will be hurtful. It is dangerous and should be seriously dealt with.
But when the people who sin don’t accept it and deal with it, that’s when the sirens should be blaring in your head.
Accepting sin as sin
Now I’m not talking about blatantly obvious sins. If this was for every sinning Christian, the sirens would always be blaring. But it’s not as dangerous when things are obvious. People are much less likely to defend and justify themselves.
The real danger comes with the “sins of the soul” like pride, jealousy, gossip, slander and the like. We all deal with them. We all get caught in them (if we’re transparent). But some people accept and deal with them better than others.
Humility is one of the key signs of Christian maturity. More than how well a person knows what the Bible says. More than how eloquently a person speaks. More than how committed a person is to their church. More than how intelligently a person is able to debate.
It’s their response when they get confronted on their sin.
What’s their posture and attitude? Are they open-minded to the point that’s being made? Do they accept feedback as valid and feelings as legitimate?
Do they justify it or do they admit and repent from it? Do they defend themselves or do they elevate the other person’s feelings and empathize even if they didn’t intend to hurt them? Do they start bringing up stuff you’ve done wrong or do they focus on the issue at hand?
And maybe worst of all, do they use Scripture to justify their actions?
If you make a legitimate effort with the person and they don’t take a humble posture and attitude, I’d encourage you to get away like your pants are on fire.
I’ve had multiple experiences with this situation and know of others that have too. It took me a few cycles through it to realize how dangerous it was and I eventually learned my lesson. I want you to recognize and learn it sooner.
The common experience usually involves sin in church leadership in an organized setting. That’s not always the case of course. But that environment can be enabling to this type of situation.
When confronted, that Christian leader is great at justifying, twisting, debating, obfuscating, and many times making it come out like you’re the bad guy that needs to be taught something in the situation.
You were calling them out and somehow you become the focus of the conversation. All of a sudden, the conversation is about something YOU’VE done.
You walk away not feeling quite right. You have a feeling that something is off, or goofy or weird about the whole situation and about your interaction with that person. Many times you can’t even put your finger on it.
Healthy church life is about healthy relationships, and healthy relationships are never about being right. They’re about being built together. This person may carry the label of “leader,” but they have not so learned Jesus Christ.
There’s trouble ahead
If the most influential people in a church are like what I’m describing, there’s bound to be significant trouble ahead for that church. I will put my life savings on it.
My wife and I left a church after confronting sin in church leadership once. We noticed it quickly, but held on for too long under those conditions. It ended up causing us more heartache than if we would have dealt quickly with it.
When we came to the realization that this was going on, we quickly and quietly left, and that move also saved us a lot of future heartache. There were many stories that made it to our ears from after we left that confirmed this.
So when you notice something hurtful going on and those being confronted get defensive or combative or slick or fake or non-empathetic (or all of them!) , it’s time to disassociate yourself with those people. Without doing that, there’s an inevitable plate of heartache that awaits for you and everyone else involved.
Coming to the end of oneself
Also, coming to the end of oneself is part of the criteria for being used by God. While we always want to be looking to build bridges instead of walls, I’ve found this is one of those cases where these types of people are being loved and served best by you through disassociation.
What they need in their life is failure. They need to come to the end of themselves to be able to advance with the Lord. Disassociating with them will not only protect you, it may also turn out to be the most loving thing you can do for them.