The Sinner Repented – So What Do We Christians Do With Him Now?
By Barbara Henderson
Did you ever know a real Christian who stepped completely outside the actions and behavior that is acceptable to Christ? Maybe it was a long journey to their particular sin. Maybe it was just a short trip that got them into so much trouble.
Then one day, this person woke up just like the prodigal son. He said, ‘I don’t want to live like this anymore. I am going home to my father’s house. I will repent of my sin and turn from it. I know my father will forgive me and take me back.’
So, the sinner arrives in church one day, repents, and starts coming to church and sitting on the front row. Now, how is the Christian supposed to treat this person who has gone so far outside the bounds of acceptable Christian behavior?
The answer is VERY CAREFULLY!
First, the repentant sinner is a child of God. Christians are told in Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2, ‘But whoso shall offend one of these little ones, which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and the he were drowned in the depth of the sea.’ (exact quote is from Matthew) because this is spoken of in three of the Gospels, it is very important.
So you want to be very careful in how you treat someone who has turned form sin and is trying to begin a new and better life inside the boundaries of Christian behavior. The repentant sinner has often become more childlike in seeking the face of God. Even though grown up, or perhaps just nearly grown up, they seek the Lord in a child like manner. Their own egos are crushed. They go to the Lord and put themselves under His authority, and His mercy. They suddenly become teachable. They don’t hold grudges against fellow Christians because their personal experience testifies to the fact that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It appears that the truly repentant become little ones in Christ, ready and willing to learn the things of Christ.
In fact, should any Christian refuse forgiveness and fellowship with the repentant Christian, then that Christian is effectively placing a millstone around his or her own neck. They are falling into sin themselves and are limiting their own Christian growth.
SECOND, remember that the repentant sinner is YOUR brother or sister in Christ. How would you treat your own birth sibling if they came into the flock after time spent in sin? Would you rejoice and welcome them gladly? Or would you sit back in judgment? I believe the prodigal son’s older brother was not happy to see his brother return.
Don’t ‘worry’ that the repentant sinner is ‘getting off scott free’. They are ready to go forward with their life in Christ. They have truly repented of their sins. Christ has truly forgiven them. HOWEVER, the consequences of sin will stay with them. King David’s sin with Bathsheba haunted him the rest of his life. That is just the way the world works. Be sure that you are not the one who heaps sorrow on top of sorrow.
REMEMBER that to give the returning prodigal love and encouragement is not to condone previous sinful actions. It is a good time to consider your own sins. I have seen sin bring sorrow to those who were supposed to be leaders and pillars of the church. It makes me angry that they would be such a vile representative of Christianity. It happens every day. We cannot change it. We can work to avoid becoming part of it.
The Apostle Paul said, ‘But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest bby any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.’
Paul was humble in that he knew that even he could fall into sin. He set his mind to guard against personal sin. Matthew Henry has this to say. ‘Here is a good rule for reprovers; first reform thyself.’ (Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary – Matthew7:1-6)
I understand that each case is different regarding exactly how a repentant fellow Christian can be treated. This article just covers some generalities. It would be foolish to put a repentant embezzler in charge of the churches money. The main point is to forgive them as Christ has forgiven them, and to love them like Christ loves them. That is the best thing you can do for them, but more importantly, it is the best thing you can do for yourself!