Whom Do We Hold Accountable?
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”1 Corinthians 5:12-13
The apostle Paul is telling the church in Corinth to expel a non-repentant brother who is sleeping with his stepmother. Paul’s lesson is that members must be held accountable within the Lord’s church, but to do this with love and encouragement to overcome sinful behavior.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16). Everyone in the church has a heart to minister to everyone else with the objective of bringing everyone closer to Christ. Through our love and compassion for our brothers and sisters, we strive to keep everyone on the narrow road to eternal life.
If a person in the church family willfully continues in a sinful habit, he or she must be held accountable, because sinful habits can become accepted and steer the whole church into sin. If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, regard him as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17). The brother is no longer a member of the church and the hopes are that he will see the error of his sin and return to the truth.
When ministering to people who do not know the Word, we cannot hold them accountable because they do not know the ways of God. It is not helpful to tell these people directly what they should or shouldn’t do because it takes away their liberty and invites rebellion. Instead, a Christian’s job is to introduce them to the Word, perhaps through a Bible study. Once they read the Word and learn the truth, they will be convicted by the Spirit. Only God can convict a sinner. As forgiven sinners ourselves, our job is to help people to learn the truth and then allow the Lord to work through His Holy Spirit as he teaches them His ways.
Whether we are ministering to our Christian family or to lost souls, we are to treat people with respect and to reflect God’s love through a caring heart. Every soul is infinitely important to God and many must be gently led to Christ. It’s easy to get upset when lost souls reveal beliefs that are clearly Satan’s lies. Remember, Christians have the knowledge of the Lord through the Word and experience Him daily, while lost souls may have zero knowledge of God and His Word. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Today remember whom to hold accountable and whom not to hold accountable. Minister to everyone based on where they are in their Christian walk, and accept everyone with respect. Holding people accountable is a way of encouraging them and lifting them up closer to the Lord. Whether we are ministering to lost souls or to our Christian brothers and sisters, we can do it with love and encouragement.
Let’s Pray: Lord, guide me today to lift everyone up with encouragement. Let this become a habit so when I find a Christian friend drifting away from God I can go to them with encouragement and show confidence in them. Guide me in the Spirit when difficult times of accountability occur. In Jesus name, Amen