Would it be more helpful to you if the one who caught you came to you privately to talk to you about it, and put an arm around your shoulder, and offered to pray with you about it and shared a weakness of his/her own and asked you if you both could be accountable to each other before God about the sins that challenge you both … or would it be more helpful to you if that person went to your boss, your dean, your spouse, your minister, or your elders and told them what you had done?
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. 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, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” ~ Matthew 18:15-20
Before you respond with 1 Corinthians 5, let me concede that God can and often does make good results come of wickedness exposed for what it is.
Look what He did with a crucifixion.
Then consider the possibility that a single sin observed does not necessarily indicate a life proudly steeped in its stink and still calling itself Christlike – the kind of situation that Paul is dealing with in Corinth.
Then return to my original question: If you were caught in a sin … how would you want to be treated?
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. ~ Galatians 6:1-5
No, there’s no excuse for not following the directions. It’s not acceptable to say, “I’m not spiritual, so it’s the job of someone else to restore gently.” You’re a child of God if you’ve received His grace and His Spirit lives in you: you’re spiritual.
It’s not acceptable to say “I’m justified in judging this person because I haven’t committed that sin.” That’s comparing one’s self to someone else – when neither of you is sinless.
It’s not acceptable to say, “I wasn’t sinned against; it was himself/herself/the church/God that was sinned against.” If you are a part of that person’s church family, the sin brings reproach upon the family name of your Savior.
It’s not acceptable to say, “I don’t know what to do; I’ll just turn it over to someone else.”
Jesus told his followers what to do (above). He gave us step-by-step instructions on the matter because He knows exactly what we need and He knows this is the only way that works.
If we love the other person as a fellow sinner, we fully follow the steps in the order that they are given, as necessary. How we would want to be treated if caught in a sin is going to be how others want to be treated, too. That’s not a guarantee that pursuing it will immediately yield a melted and penitent heart – which is why there is more than one step to the process. Even loving, respectful confrontation may well lead to anger, denial, hateful words, accusations, or worse.
If Jesus had never outlined the steps, we should have known them in our hearts – because we know how we ourselves would want to be approached when guilty. (Not that anyone of us would really want to be approached about it at all!)
Not skipping any.