Having recently had a discussion with some Christians about when our sins appear too shameful, we noted how those in sin can sometimes think there’s no way they can rebound from the mistake. The reality is that none of us are perfect. However, we categorize some sins as worse than others likely because varying punishments were to have been given as a result of specific sins in the Law. Therefore, the greater one’s sin, the more the shame. When that shame becomes too high to bear, Christians might alienate themselves from the church or, worse, the Lord.
The preacher wrote that there is a time for every matter under heaven, and I’d add to his already extensive list that there’s a time to judge and a time to show mercy. When a person is brokenhearted because of their sins, something that God Himself doesn’t despise (Psalm 51:17), we should not at that time deem it appropriate to give judgment. That is the time for compassion and mercy, the same thing one would receive if they come to God with a broken heart. Creating an atmosphere of love and grace in the church is paramount to being a body of Christ.
We have had some of our own brethren in recent months come with broken hearts. They have sinned, and their sin has brought with it a sense of hopelessness. They have felt despondent. They have mourned that they let God down and even us, their brethren. I am delighted at the outpouring of love that these brethren have received from us all here. I have heard no whispering, “What do you think they did?” I have not been privy to anyone gossiping about what they did. Some of us know. Others may not. What’s most important is that the Lord knows, and if He is willing to blot out their sins, we should stand to rejoice that He is full of mercy and compassion.
In 2 Corinthians 2:7, Paul urged the church to forgive a Christian who had been disciplined by the church. This may have been the one who sinned what he wrote about in 1 Corinthians 5. Regardless, Paul urged that they forgive and comfort the sinner who, it seems, was repentant. Paul feared that if they gave too much punishment that this particular Christian would be “swallowed up with too much sorrow.” Yes, shame can be too much to bear, and there’s a time, as Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 5:9–13, to judge brethren who have sinned. There’s also a time when it is appropriate to love them when their sorrow leads them to repentance.