Summary: This sermon examines how we should treat those among us who are living in open sin. A true story is used as an illustration.
How Should We Treat Sinners?
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.
3Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,
4they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.
5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?"
6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." 8And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"
11She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
I want to begin this morning by reading to you a true story.
A 49 year old social worker and lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves joined a conservative Christian church as her 3-year-long divorce proceedings were nearing an end. Her 18-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son also joined the church.
This woman claims her problems began when she started telling her church mentor about her sexual relationship with a man -- in what she thought were confidential conversations. "As it progressed I told her about it and she said, ’You’ve got to get out, you’re biblically wrong,’"
Despite knowing her relationship was against church rules, this woman said she never realized that disclosing it would trigger the first in a three-step process used by the church to deal with sinners: private admonishment, admonishment in the presence of witnesses and finally public admonishment.
Still, she said she tried to follow her mentor’s advice and break up with her male friend, who wasn’t a member of the church. She said, "I must have gone through 10 breakups trying to end it, but after not having the power to do it I would go back. It was hard to give up somebody I love."
This woman learned that her private sessions with her mentor hadn’t been so private after all. One Sunday her confidant hugged her and led her to a meeting with some of the church’s female members. She says, "They all went after me. In the room, there were several women that I never told my business to. And they proceeded to tell me about my business and what I was doing and what a sinner I was -- just persecuting me." One of the ladies said, ’I know you haven’t come home at night because I was at your house and I saw you not come home.’ She says, "It was so devastating. ... I thought the people who cared for me were in this room."
It was then that she decided to leave the church. "I told them, ’I cannot believe you people are doing this. I’m not going any further -- I’m never coming here again." Her boyfriend sent an e-mail asking for her removal from church membership, and she moved to another church, thinking it was all over.
Her boyfriend said the church wouldn’t let it end there. "The pastor kept calling her, and I informed him that she would appreciate it if neither he nor any member of his church contacted her ever again."
A little later, the woman received a letter from the elders of the church, explaining that she had left them no choice but to continue the disciplinary process. "Your refusal to repent and be restored in your relationship with God and His Church leaves us with no alternative than to carry out the third step of the discipline process. In accordance with Matthew 18:17, we intend to ’tell it to the church." This rebuke in front of the whole church was set for about a month later.
The woman sent a formal letter of resignation after receiving the elders’ ultimatum in hopes of solving the dispute. She said she feared for her 20-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter if the church carried out its threat. "I don’t really care what they do to me. But I am concerned about my children sitting in church with their mother being crucified by the church that they trust. I am very concerned about how it would affect them."