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Confronting a Friend With His Sin

(2 Samuel 12:1-14)

Lesson 10 -- first quarter 2009
February 8, 2009

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2009

Introductory questions to chew

Would you rather be Nathan or David in this account?

Which would you prefer to face: David or Nathan?

When God's people sin, is reproach always brought upon God?

On what basis do I dare confront another with his sin?

How can I become easier to confront?

Why should I accept correction?

What if I don't deserve it?

Blind as a bat

We have no conclusive indication that David struggled with his conscience at all. At some point early on, I would think he did. This experience of David clearly shows how one sin can gradually sever our contact with reality. The righteousness, omniscience and judgment of God seem entirely forgotten by David. Amazing! David was so out of touch that even Nathan's story did not connect properly. The prophet finally had to accuse very directly, "Thou art the man," and tell David point blank what he meant. The message from God was not ambiguous: "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? Thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah. By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme."

Isn't God faithful and merciful! He could have reacted as David did against the rich man in the story, with immediate and harsh condemnation. Or He could have just let David continue his descent from good to worse. But instead of either approach, God chose exposure, conviction and another opportunity to repent. And God emerged victorious in the hard-fought spiritual battle for the heart and allegiance of David. Satan had gained an upper hand, but when David got the message loud and clear, brokenness and repentance quickly resulted. And the devil was defeated.

Responding to failings in the life of another

People aren't perfect. Come to think of it, people are far from perfect. And some folks' imperfections glare. To make matters even worse yet, we have to live with these folks! (Too bad we aren't perfect ourselves; otherwise, we might manage all this better!) OK, we get the picture now. But how shall we respond to these folks and their failings?

With foresight.

When I wanted to harvest corn from our garden, I planted corn. Care to guess why I did such a thing? Right! We reap what we sow. Gardeners who have the foresight to anticipate what they wish to harvest can easily figure out what to plant. That same principle operates in human relationships. Jesus said, "With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged" (Matthew 7:2). From this I learn that I should have the foresight to anticipate a time when I will want certain responses from others when I fail. And having that foresight, I should now sow those very responses when I face the failings of others. It helps me to remember that they are no less imperfect than I!

With consideration.

I already alluded to this response. As we gaze upon others' failings, we need to consider: "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). Whenever we view another's shortcomings outside the context of our own failures, we become judgmental, proud, scornful, or merciless...or all those and more.

With honesty.

When it comes to our responses to failings in the lives of others, the commodity of honesty must apply equally to them and to us. First, we need to be honest with ourselves; we need to acknowledge (and work at removing) the rafter in our own eye. Once we have accomplished that task (with all due delicacy and care, naturally), we are well-prepared to go to the other person. We need to be honest with them as well; we need to inform them (with all due delicacy and care, naturally) that they have a sliver in their eye. We should quickly assure them that we have hands-on, first-hand experience and knowledge in removing such hazards to vision. Denying the mote in their eye makes no more sense than denying the beam in our own. Humility does wonderful and salutary things for honesty. So try them both the next time you see a fault in another!

Face to face with sin and spiritual need

Dare we read 1 Timothy 5:1 as an assertion that we need less rebuking and more intreating? Perhaps not. However, consider it that way for now.

"Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and [rebuke not] the younger men [but intreat them] as brethren; [rebuke not] the older women [but intreat them] as mothers; [rebuke not] the younger [women, but intreat them] as sisters, with all purity."

What do you think? My insertions above do no injustice to English grammar and mechanics, neither do they assault the context of the teaching. Having said that, I hasten to clarify that, as always, understanding and applying any portion of Scripture must be done in the broader context of God's Word to us. So I do not intend to suggest that God forbids all rebuking.

We all sin. We all fail. We all come (far) short of 100% godliness. Thus we all need input and correction from fellow believers, particularly those of the local body.

How do you respond to and deal with failure and outright sin in the church? Well, if you are like me, it is too easy to hinge the answer on who the sinner is. If an "opponent" falls, the flesh barks impatiently for quick, unbending retribution. If someone who recently corrected me fails, the flesh exults in the wonderful opportunity to return tit for tat. If a friend misses the mark, well...we must be loving and understanding, not judgmental and hasty, you know. And if I goof, back off everybody!!

Not only do the responses get softer as the sinner gets closer to us, our view of the sin moderates. Notice the subject and verbs of the dependent clauses: opponent falls, someone fails, friend misses, I goof. That is the flesh. God hates this kind of respect of persons. Proverbs 11:1 tells us that a false balance is an abomination to the Lord. This kind of response to sin is an abominable false balance!

Consider 2 Corinthians 13:11 -- "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you." I am challenged by four principles to help us respond properly to and deal wisely with the errant among us. Faithfully following through with these will deepen our communion in the body and with "the God of love and peace."

Be perfect.

This sounds like an impossible beginning to a formidable task. Who is perfect, anyway?! Matthew 5:48 implies that because of the Father's perfection we can be perfect. This perfection is accomplished through the Lord's presence in the life of the believer, by the believer abiding in the Lord, and through the mutual dependence of each church member (John 17:23). The Lord in me would never allow me to be harsh or partial, and I certainly would not wish to be unkind toward the Lord in a fellow believer! When I recognize my dependence on another Christian, I see the foolishness of dealing unwisely with him since it would be to my own hurt. Under these circumstances, patience becomes much more natural, and that patience in turn leads to further perfection (James 1:4). A perfect response toward sin and sinner also includes "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). One more comment -- perfect here means "to mend, repair, complete, strengthen."

Be of good comfort.

This Greek word can be used to mean "to admonish, exhort, beg, entreat, beseech" or "to console, encourage, strengthen, comfort" or "to instruct, teach." There is no room in this word for harshness or politics. This approach works with genuine forgiveness to help sustain the spirit and soul of the fallen one (2 Corinthians 2:7). Just as the Lord comforts our hearts and establishes us in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:17), so we now do for any brother or sister who has erred (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Be of one mind.

This literally means to exercise the mind, that is, to have an interest, sentiment or opinion. A restorer with one mind says "Not me and mine, but Jesus and His." This keeps the fallen one from being threatened by the restorer. Other Scriptures loudly and insistently call us to be of the same mind in our humble consideration of each other and in our humiliation for another's benefit.

Live in peace.

Peace. What is it; the mere absence of conflict? I have long been fascinated by Strong's comment that this word probably comes from a primary verb meaning "to join." Peacemaking in the church is an effort to rejoin that which has been severed. Living together in peace in the church is living in oneness and mutual acceptance. Unless the errant one knows we are not rejecting him and looking down our noses at him, he will not respond positively to our efforts to help him rise again.

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