If You Love Someone, You'll Intervene
If a person is in Christ and you go to him knowing you’re supposed to speak to them about something in their life, do you just walk away after that? Maybe what you said has hurt the person, but not intentionally.
If it’s your child and they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, there might be a little pain involved in helping them realize they shouldn’t have their hand in the cookie jar. Since you’re part of their life and you don’t “attend” your child and they don’t “attend” you, you’re going to work it out. It may take a little while. There’s a little sting involved in the spanking, but if they’re really your child then you’ll be able to work it out. If they’re the neighbor’s child then you may not do that because they’ll be mad and you may not see them again. But with those close to us, it’s our responsibility as a follower of Jesus.
I have to be open to people talking to me about things in my life. If they signed up to be Christians and gave their life to Jesus, then they don’t have a choice. It’s not like a club where everybody can do what they want or show up whenever they want. There are “rules” so to speak—I say that in the human sense of the concept. With anything that you’re a part of, there are certain responsibilities that you have. Jesus said, “If you love Me you’ll obey Me.”
Jesus has made it clear what a Christian is and what a Church is and how we’re supposed to live our lives. We do have to talk to people when things are not looking right, otherwise we grieve the Spirit—we’re disobeying God.
So the responsibility is on us? I thought it was their responsibility if they are doing something that doesn’t coincide with the Word of God. Aren’t they the ones that are disobeying? I don’t know…are you saying I am responsible?
Yes! :) In Ezekiel there’s an interesting passage. It says the guilty ones are not only those who disobey, but are also those who refuse to talk to the ones who disobey (Eze. 33:8-9). They get the same judgment as the ones who disobey. What kind of parent lets a child just live any way they please? That’s irresponsible. They’re child-abusers. So in a sense if we don’t love somebody enough to try to turn them—snatch them from the flames as the Scriptures say—if we do nothing to help them, we’re irresponsible. I don’t know what’s true here in this country, but if I watch somebody getting mugged or stabbed in our city and I just watch it happen and don’t do anything, I could be arrested for that.
Yes, I’m an accomplice. If I do nothing whatsoever and walk away, it’s like a hit and run accident. A person that leaves the scene of a crime without reporting it or intervening is guilty of a crime. From God’s perspective that’s even more true that we are child abusers if we let satan have people and don’t lift a finger to try to help and intervene.
People are victims of the evil one, they aren’t enemies. We’re not trying to tell them all the things they are doing wrong. They are victims of the enemy so we try to snatch them from the flames. Both Jude and James refer to that concept. If you love somebody, you intervene. You try to save them from destruction, and if they resent that then there’s a pretty good chance they’re not Christians at all.
Do you walk away then, if they resent it?
That depends on the context. Are they part of the same body of believers that you are? That matters…
Okay, what did Jesus say in Matthew 18? What happens if you go to him and to him alone and he won’t hear you?
Then you take your brothers.
Bring two or three others, yes.
Before then, should we give them time to work through what was said?
If they seem to want to work through it honestly, sure.
So at that stage you back off?
If they won’t hear you and don’t want to deal with it, then bring two or three others to help persuade them. If they still won’t hear you, then tell the church. And if they won’t hear the church, then treat them as a tax collector. Put them out. It’s Jesus’ Church, right? Is everybody in agreement with that concept?
Those words came out of Jesus’ mouth. How can we say, “Oh no, I’m not going to do that, Jesus. That’s too hard.” In that case, maybe we’re not Christians if something Jesus said is unacceptable to us! It’s His Church so we’ve got to go His way. That doesn’t mean that we are mean to people. But we’ve got to do it Jesus’ way because Jesus said so. It’s His Church and He’s the Head. It’s not easy, but if you really want to see them saved and delivered from the power of the devil, then you have to do the things that Jesus said to do to try to intervene.
Let’s say my wife has problems with me and my character. Maybe I have a hidden life at home with my temper or being bossy or arrogant, or I have bad habits in the home that aren’t like Jesus. I would expect her to come to me and to me alone. What if I won’t hear her? What if I say, “Leave me alone. Don’t you judge me. Who are you to talk?” I would expect her to then bring two or three witnesses to talk to me. Jesus was very clear that if I won’t hear her she needs to bring two or three witnesses, and then tell the church if I won’t hear them either. That is God’s method of helping us turn things around that are very hard.
I grew up Roman Catholic and to them it’s called “excommunication.” It’s a heavy-duty law thing where you get kicked out and then you’re going to go to hell. But that’s not the context of what Jesus said in Matthew 18 or in 1 Corinthians 5 and other places where it happens. The context is that it’s a tool that God uses to get my attention when I’m stubborn. And the more stubborn I am, the more necessary the tool is. Let’s face it—some of us are pig-headed! We do love Jesus, but we’re stubborn and we’re pig-headed. Sometimes God uses a gentle push and sometimes it takes a crowbar. Sometimes it takes a two-by-four across the back of our head. That’s also in God’s toolbox.
Matthew 18 says what to do if someone won’t hear you. You can’t eliminate the need to talk to them, because a little leaven leavens the whole batch. That means that the whole body of believers becomes guilty of their crime.
Do you remember when Achan had the idol buried in his tent in Israel and God judged the whole nation (Joshua 7)? Israel was probably a couple million people and they were all judged by God because one man had an idol buried in his tent. When they lost the battle of Ai, did God say, “I’m going to judge the sinner. I’m going to strike him dead”? No, He said, “I want you to figure out who it is.” He didn’t even give them any hint. He just said, “We have a problem. Find out who it is and have him and all of his family come out.” Did He then say, “And then I’ll strike them dead.” No. God said, “I want you to stone them.” So even in the Old Testament God forced His people to get involved in the process of resolving sin in the camp. It’s not a new story. It’s always been that way.
The best thing that can happen to any of us is that people around us love us enough to intervene when we’re being stupid. David was a man after God’s own heart, but he needed a little help from Nathan the prophet (2 Sam.12). And then he needed forgiveness from God’s people who allowed him to pick his life up again after the baby died. Because David was truly penitent, they didn’t stone him. He picked up where he left off. There were terminal consequences, but he had to repent. If Cain meets a man after God’s heart, even Cain needs the chance to hear, if something needs to be said. That’s a family.
If relationships are attendance-based though, you’ve got big problems. Because even though resolving sin is Biblical, it starts smelling like legalism and power plays. It’s hard to obey the commands of God in a non-Biblical environment because you don’t know what to do. Everything you do is wrong. “The Bible says I’ve got to do this, but if I try, it isn’t going to work.”
The closer we are to one another and to being in a Biblical environment and laying down our lives for each other every day, then the more all the commands start making sense. It’s not that hard anymore. It’s the most natural thing when you’re raising a child, if they’re having an attitude problem, to grab their little chin and have a talk. You might not do that with a total stranger on the street, but you would do that with your own child. If we’re a hundred mothers, brothers, and sisters like Jesus said we’re supposed to be, then we just talk about those things and work them out.