By P.J. Casebolt
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
One characteristic of a spiritually minded person is that he will acknowledge the commandments of the Lord (I Cor. 14:37). The passage in Galatians does not indicate that the one overtaken in a fault was not spiritual, but if those who are responsible for restoring such an one do not behave in a spiritual way, they are no better off than the one who was overtaken.
There seems to be a different standard used by some when restoring a preacher who has been overtaken in a fault. True, a preachers sins may affect more people, simply because he has more influence to being with, but there should be no double standard employed when deciding what constitutes sin, or when trying to restore a fallen preacher.
Preachers must pay the penalty for, and accept the consequences of their own sins, the same as anyone else. I know of one preacher who is incarcerated now because he violated civil law. I know others who are suffering mental anguish because they brought reproach upon the church, their families, and their own reputation. Atonement can be made for guilt, but often the consequences of sin linger on. These facts should deter those who have not yet sinned, who have not yet been overtaken in a fault.
However, “though we thus speak,” I verily believe that there are times when we could salvage a soul, and even a reputation, by being more “spiritual” when apprehending and restoring fallen brethren, including preachers.
There are such things as secret sins (Psa. 90:8), and these should be dealt with as such. There are also personal transgressions, and these should involve no more people than what are necessary to resolve the situation (Matt. 18:15-17). If a sin becomes public, then proportionate measures need to be taken in order to correct the matter. We cannot do less; neither should we seek to do more.
There is a mentality abroad in the land and apparently present in the church, which seems to “rejoice in iniquity” (I Cor. 13:6), and derive pleasure from the sinful acts of others (Rom. 1:32). Those who thrive on gossip and backbiting may not have committed the same sins as the subjects of their juicy conversations, but the penalty for “and such like” sins are the same as for murder and adultery (Rom. 1:29-32; Gal. 5:19-21)
This is not to say that false teachers should not be identified and branded, especially when such will not repent. Neither do we condone sweeping a fault or a practice under the rug when it needs to be dealt with forthrightly.
But once a matter has been aired and resolved as well as humans can do such things, let it rest. And, if a matter has escaped public detection, and you are the only one capable of turning it into script fit for an afternoon soap opera, resist the temptation to wash someone else’s dirty linen.
Judas Iscariot turned out to be a hypocrite, but the eleven disciples found someone to take his place, and the Lord’s caused survived. The church in Jerusalem survived the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira. Paul rebuked Peter for dissimulation, and Peter had to face the consequences of such an act, whatever they may have been. But Peter still endorsed the writings of the apostle Paul (2 Pet. 3:15,16).
The cause of the Lord has suffered reproach from Eden to David and Bathsheba, and in our time. It will continue to do so as long as the devil tempts people beyond their desire or will to resist.
But those of us who consider ourselves to be spiritual will determine to a great extent just how deeply the cause of Christ will be wounded, and how many souls will be lost or saved, including our own (Jas. 5:19,20).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: No 19, p. 9-10
October 7, 1993