Sin in the Camp
Sin in the Camp
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I just began reading a new book by John Bevere entitled Killing Kryptonite. I’m just a few chapters in, but it promises to be thought provoking. In the beginning of his book he is attempting to answer a question that many of us have verbalized or, at least, thought about. That question would be something like, “With the Spirit of God within us, with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead working out of us, with the amazing gifts of the Spirit and the authority of Christ resting on us, why does the church continue to appear to be so impotent against the works of the devil in the world around us?”


He says it this way. “In light of being his beloved, we should manifest unselfish character, unconditional love, joy unspeakable, peace that passes understanding, supernatural power, well-being, vitality, creativity, divine wisdom, keen understanding, supreme knowledge, and perceptive insight – and this list is far from comprehensive! Scripture promises attributes such as these on many levels, so again my question is, ‘Why aren’t we seeing this in either an individual or overall church level?’” (p.18).


I suppose we could offer many potential reasons, but John raises a possible answer that is worth considering. His answer is simply that the sin and compromise tolerated in the church makes us all subject to a curse and takes the strength and glory from the church that should be evident there. John points out that there are many reasons we have come to tolerate sin in a church that God calls to be holy.   The first is simply that we don’t want to confront sin because we want to avoid conflict or don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Another is that we want to give people time to grow spiritually…for years. Often Christians feel that pointing out someone’s sin to them is “judging” and we are taught not to judge. I also think a primary reason that we don’t speak out against sin in the church is that we have been desensitized to sin and are not as offended by it as we should be – not only in the lives of others but in our own lives.


Now let me be clear…Bevere is not talking about the weaknesses we struggle with or the sin we fall into and struggle against and hate in our own lives. He is talking about blatant lifestyles of sin that go unrepented – sexual sin, divisiveness, crooked business practices, etc. that people know are defined as sin in scripture but who will not repent.


These are the kinds of lifestyle sin that Paul points out throughout his letters and instructs the churches to withdraw the fellowship of the church from these individuals if they will not repent after spiritual leaders have gone to them, prayed with them, and encouraged them to deal with the sin in their lives. The most familiar of these cases was the man in Corinth who was living openly in sexual sin and who was coming to the church as if none of that mattered. Paul instructed the church, saying, “When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:4-5).


When believers read this today it seems so harsh and is almost shocking. Paul had two concerns with that man. One was that his own soul was in danger because of this blatant, unrepented sin and the other was that the man’s sin put the church in danger. In his book, Bevere reminds us of a biblical principle that as Americans we are typically unfamiliar with. It is the principle that not only does a man reap what he sows, but those connected to him will also reap the con sequences od what he sowed. The clearest Old Testament example is Achan. When Israel crossed the Jordan River and faced the fortified city of Jericho, God instructed them to take nothing for themselves from that city. It was “first fruits” and everything taken in the city would belong to God. After their great victory, they sent a small contingent of soldiers to take a much smaller city and they were routed. Dozens of men lost their lives and when Joshua asked God why he had abandoned them, God said that there was sin in the camp of the Israelites. A man named Achan had taken clothing and precious metals from Jericho and had hidden them in his tent. Achan and his family were put to death for what he had done while dozens of other Israelites became widows and orphans because of his actions. One man’s sin had caused God to lift his hand of protection off the nation.


We are typically quick to point out that the example given was under the Old Covenant and does not apply to the church. Bevere, however, raises an interesting point in Paul’s admonition to the church at Corinth about those who were treating the Lord’s supper with contempt. Paul said, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 11:29-30). An amplified version of this scripture might say, “That is why many among you are spiritually ineffective and sick and a number of you have died prematurely.”


When we read that verse, we tend to think that the weak and sick and dying were only those who were “eating and drinking judgment on themselves” by treating the Lord’s supper with contempt by their unloving, selfish treatment of other members of the body of Christ. Bevere suggests, however, that the sin of a few was afflicting the many. He quotes 1 Corinthians 11:21 as saying, “For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others….”   But then Paul describes those weal, sick, and dying as “many of you.” Some were treating the Lords supper with contempt but many were weak, sick and dying. The blatant sin of a few can rob blessings and strength from the others.


Remember, we are all members of one body. When one part is blessed, we are all blessed. When one part is damaged, we all suffer. The principle that what is done by one is attributed to others seems unfair to individualistic Americans, but the same principle allows the righteousness of one to be attributed to others who are in the same family. Take away the principle and the righteousness of Christ cannot be attributed to us.


So, Bevere’s point is that when the church forgets the mandate of being a holy bride and tolerates lifestyles of sin in the church, then the whole church suffers weakness, sickness, and premature death. That, he says, is why the American church is not thriving and flourishing as a whole. He also suggests that the solution to the problem begins with our concern about our own holiness before we begin to worry about everyone else’s. The point is that what one does effects every other part of the body for good or for bad. We are not “stand alones.” We are connected and should be concerned about righteousness in the church for the sake of the individual who is blatantly sinning and also for the sake of others. It’s something to think about.


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