How should the Christian church deal with sin in our midst? We can become complacent and refuse to deal with it (1 Corinthians 5:1,2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Revelation 2:20). Or we can become harsh and unforgiving, refusing to reinstate the person who has fallen (2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35). To approach this properly we must remember that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6) who have been forgiven by the grace of God (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5,6). But we also need to remember that God wants to work in us to change us into who He wants us to be (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18). These truths need to determine our approach to sin, both in ourselves and others.
Why can we not just tolerate sin? Sin is likened to leaven; when it is accepted, and particularly if it is accepted openly, it has a corrupting influence (1 Corinthians 5:6-8; 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). It is sometimes easy to think we are stronger than we are and that we can dally with open sin, when in fact Scripture tells us to avoid the temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12,13; 1 Timothy 6:11; Matthew 6:13). Also, we are to show ourselves as an example to the world of the kind of life God wants us to lead (Matthew 5:13-16; Titus 2:7,8; 1 Peter 2:11,12). We should be concerned to show those who might be inclined to hold the opposite opinion that believing in the grace of God does not cause people to sin (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 5:13,14 2 Peter 1:9).
But we must approach those who are in sin with a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 3:12,13), with the goal of restoring the person rather than pushing them away (Hebrews 12:12,13; James 5:19.20; Matthew 18:15). Our goal is not to win an argument or to show we are better than them, but to convince people to return to following Christ. In this we must be careful of sitting in judgment on people (James 4:11,12; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 8:33,34). We must also remember that we are all still people in process and have not yet arrived at where we ought to be (Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:14-25). There is a careful balance here; we do not want to just ignore sin and sweep it under the rug. But we also do not want to pillory every person who stumbles, ignoring all compassion. But we are commanded to deal with sin, neither regarding it as acceptable nor treating those who fall with contempt.