Do Not Share in the Sins of Others
“I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in.”—PSALM 26:4.
1. Why did Jude change his purpose in writing to fellow Christians?
NINETEEN centuries ago, the disciple Jude had intended to write fellow believers about ‘the salvation they held in common.’ But he found it necessary to urge them to “put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.” Why? Because certain “ungodly men” had slipped into the congregation and were “turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct.”—Jude 3, 4.
2. Although it is refreshing to discuss salvation, at times what must we consider prayerfully?
2 How refreshing to discuss salvation held in common! Meditating on that message brings great satisfaction, and we rejoice when anticipating all the blessings of that salvation. Nevertheless, there are times when, rather than speaking about salvation, we are faced with the need to consider other serious matters. If not corrected, these can tear down our faith and cause us to lose out in the race for life. Even as Jude’s warning against wrong conduct was strong and forceful, so Christians today must at times prayerfully consider Scriptural counsel that is direct, very much to the point.
Our Own Sins
3. Why do we need discipline, and how should it be received?
3 The psalmist David said: “With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) All of us have been born as sinners. (Romans 5:12) The apostle John wrote: “If we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) As sinners, there are times when we need discipline so as to correct our course. Such discipline comes from Jehovah through his Word, the Bible, and his organization. His discipline corrects us and helps us to walk in uprightness before him. As the apostle Paul observed: “True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11) In view of the peaceable fruit of such discipline, we surely should receive it with gratitude.
4. When may discipline be given, and what may be the effect of it?
4 Discipline from Jehovah may be given when we are just starting on a course that could lead to greater wrongdoing. (Galatians 6:1) At other times, the discipline may come after we have more fully entered into a wrong course. Such discipline may have to be severe, as when the apostle Paul strongly urged the Corinthians to take action against a fornicator in the congregation. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5) In either case, the discipline is given so that the wrongdoer might repent, turn around, and steer a steady course away from the sinful desires leading into serious wrongdoing. (Compare Acts 3:19.) Servants of Jehovah are grateful for such discipline, even as the rebuked individual in ancient Corinth benefited and apparently was restored to loving association with the congregation.—2 Corinthians 2:5-8.
5. Christians who become involved in serious sin usually do what?
5 The vast majority of those dedicated to Jehovah are very much aware of the need to walk in an upright manner before God. If they should become involved in serious sin, they quickly turn away from the bad course, go to the appointed elders, and give evidence of genuine repentance. (James 5:13-16) The fact that relatively few of Jehovah’s Witnesses are disfellowshipped each year is evidence that they hate what is bad and desire to do what is good.—Psalm 34:14; 45:7.
The Sins of Others
6, 7. How do some wrongdoers try to influence others?
6 Yet some who apparently love what is right seem to have allowed their hearts to deceive them, for they do not appear to hate what is bad. (Psalm 97:10; Amos 5:15) As a result, they get involved in doing sinful things and do not maintain the fight to do what is right. At times, they may go even further, seeking to involve others in their sinful course. How important that we reject such suggestions!—Compare Proverbs 1:10-15.
7 Sometimes those who apparently do not hate what is bad talk so smoothly that a yearning to do what is wrong may develop in the hearts of those listening to them. The encouragement may be to engage in immorality or in some action bordering on conduct disapproved by God. Or a person may be urged to become involved in a situation that is potentially dangerous in a spiritual way. Those thus trying to persuade others may claim that Jehovah is a loving God who will be merciful when we sin. Such treachery of the heart can cause lasting damage. (Jeremiah 17:9; Jude 4) Surely, we should ‘hold back our foot from their roadway’!—Proverbs 1:15.
Sharing in the Sins of Others
8. What questions require consideration?
8 But suppose we realize that a suggested course of action is wrong? Does our rejecting it necessarily free us of further responsibility in the matter? If we know that those suggesting wrongdoing are engaging in it, what should we do?
9. Why may some fail to report wrongdoing by others, but why is this a serious matter?
9 Some who have knowledge of wrongdoing by others may be inclined to say nothing about it to those having the prime responsibility to keep the congregation clean. Why? Perhaps they do not want to be viewed as informers. Or, because of a false sense of loyalty, they may keep the matter quiet or may speak only to those who promise to keep it secret. This is very serious. Why? Because it can actually result in sharing in the sins of others.
10, 11. (a) What did the apostle John say about sharing in the sins of others? (b) If we have learned of wrongdoing by a member of the congregation, what might we ask ourselves?
10 The apostle John showed that it is possible to share in another person’s sin. He wrote: “Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. . . . If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 9-11) An apostate from “the teaching of the Christ” would not be a worthy associate, and by not even greeting him, the loyal Christian would avoid being a sharer in his wickedness.
11 Since that is the case with an apostate, surely we would not want to become sharers in the wickedness of others whose immoral acts come to our attention. What, then, if we know that a member of the congregation has become a thief or a drunkard? If we fail to encourage that individual to seek Jehovah’s forgiveness and confess his sin to the elders, are we entirely blameless? No, for we have a serious responsibility.
Cleanness and Protection Vital
12. Why show concern for the spiritual cleanness of the congregation?
12 We must individually show concern for the spiritual cleanness of the congregation. How well this was emphasized when Jewish exiles were about to leave Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E.! The God-given command was: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of [Babylon], keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah.”—Isaiah 52:11.
13. How did Jude show that we must be concerned about protecting Jehovah’s people from wrongdoers?
13 We must also be concerned about protecting Jehovah’s people from those who would seek to entice them into wrongdoing. The “ungodly men” of Jude’s day sought to ‘turn the undeserved kindness of God into an excuse for loose conduct,’ but that loyal disciple acted to warn fellow believers and thus protect them. He reminded them of warning examples provided by unfaithful Israelites, the disobedient angels, and others. Read his divinely inspired letter, and you will see that loyal Christians cannot sit idly by when the cleanness of the congregation is threatened or God’s people need protection from immoral persons having unclean motives.
14. If a wrongdoer fails to confess to the elders, how can Psalm 26:4 help us to decide what to do?
14 Yet, suppose we have encouraged a wrongdoer to seek God’s forgiveness and confess to the elders, but he keeps putting this off or sees no need to take these steps. Can we just drop the matter? Some might reason that they do not want to become involved. They may not want to risk losing the friendship of the erring one. And they may not want to be thought of as persons who betray a confidence by telling the elders. But this is faulty reasoning. The psalmist David said: “I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in.” (Psalm 26:4) Surely, then, we would not want to become accomplices of “those who hide what they are.”
15. How does Leviticus 5:1 show our responsibility after giving an erring individual a reasonable amount of time to approach the elders about his wrongdoing?
15 Therefore, after we have given the erring individual a reasonable amount of time to approach the elders about his wrongdoing, it is our responsibility before Jehovah not to be a sharer in his sin. We need to inform the responsible overseers that the person has revealed serious wrongdoing that merits their investigation. This would be in harmony with Leviticus 5:1, which says: “Now in case a soul sins in that he has heard public cursing and he is a witness or he has seen it or has come to know of it, if he does not report it, then he must answer for his error.” Of course, we must avoid acting hastily on mere supposition of wrongdoing.
16. What is of far greater importance than loyalty to a friend who refuses to reveal his serious wrongdoing to the appointed elders?
16 In today’s world, covering over the wrongdoing of others is a general practice. Many are as mute as a stone wall when it comes to revealing the wrongdoing of others to those who should know about such actions. It requires strength of Christian personality to inform appointed elders of the serious sin of a fellow believer. But if we are to have Jehovah’s favor, we must not let personal friendship blind us to the wrongdoing of another individual. Our relationship with God is of far greater importance than loyalty to a friend who is guilty of serious wrongdoing and refuses to reveal the matter to the appointed elders.
A Problem for All to Consider
17. What illustrates that certain youths among us need to guard against sharing in the sins of others?
17 The problem of sharing in the sins of others sometimes exists among certain youths in our midst. They may remain silent and refuse to tell those who should be informed when others do things that could detrimentally affect the congregation and could result in Jehovah’s disfavor. Covering over the wrongdoing of others is quite common in the worldly school systems. But when this viewpoint spreads to the congregation, many problems may result. There have even been reports of young ones banding together to engage in wrong conduct while swearing one another to secrecy so that elders and parents will not learn about such activity. Yielding to pressure from peers and a desire to be accepted by the group has caused much heartache for these youths, their parents, and others in the congregation when the wrongdoing has been discovered. We must remember that there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and one of our primary responsibilities before Jehovah is to help to keep his organization clean.—Luke 8:17.
18. Christian parents should do what if their children do wrong?
18 All servants of Jehovah should be very careful not to share in the sins of others. Some parents try to justify the wrong conduct of their children, endeavoring to shelter them. But Christian parents should not adopt the attitude that everyone is against their children when these younger ones do wrong. Instead, godly parents should help their erring offspring to receive, accept, and benefit from any needed discipline outlined in God’s Word.
19. (a) Regarding serious sins, about what do Christian married couples need to be careful? (b) What must elders do if one of them or a ministerial servant should commit a serious sin?
19 Christian married couples also need to be careful that they do not violate God’s laws by covering over each other’s serious sins. They should remember the case of Ananias and Sapphira, who conspired but unsuccessfully sought to cover over serious sin. (Acts 5:1-11) Elders must also be alert not to protect one another or ministerial servants if one of them has committed a serious sin that could result in disfellowshipping. They should follow the principle outlined by Paul, who wrote: “Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others; preserve yourself chaste.”—1 Timothy 5:22.
The Wisdom of Maintaining Blamelessness
20. Rather than covering over or sharing in the gross sins of others, what should we do?
20 Servants of Jehovah should neither share in nor imitate the bad ways of this world. In writing to Gaius, the apostle John said: “Beloved one, be an imitator, not of what is bad, but of what is good. He that does good originates with God. He that does bad has not seen God.” (3 John 11) How good it is to be guided by the sure Word of God and thus do what is good! Rather than covering over or sharing in the gross sins of others, therefore, it should be our resolve to shine as illuminators, being blameless and innocent. (Philippians 2:14, 15) Each servant of God is responsible for keeping the congregation clean, while remaining unblemished personally. (2 Peter 3:14) But what if you are troubled about the propriety of what someone has done? You should feel free to speak with the elders and get direction as to the right course to follow.
21. (a) How is Christ’s love for his congregation an example for us? (b) Regarding the wrongdoing of others, what responsibility should we shoulder?
21 Our love for Jehovah’s organization should imitate the love of Jesus Christ for his spiritual bride, the congregation. He “loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) Similarly, our love for Jehovah’s organization should move us to do what we can to keep it clean. Never may we do anything to dishonor God or his organization or condone the wrongdoing of others in the congregation. Rather, let us encourage wrongdoers to correct their conduct and seek the help of the elders. If they fail to do this within a reasonable amount of time, let us shoulder our responsibility to inform the appointed overseers. In this way, we will avoid becoming sharers in the sins of others and bearing some responsibility for their wrong conduct.
22. (a) To attain salvation, what must we do? (b) What questions remain for consideration?
22 The salvation we hold in common is a treasure beyond compare. To attain it we must continue to walk before Jehovah in an upright way. Therefore, let us help one another to do so, never sharing in the sins of others. Jehovah has lovingly provided an organizational arrangement to assist us in these efforts, and in this regard appointed elders play an important role. But how do they imitate Jehovah and his Son, the Fine Shepherd? What assistance can elders give us on the roadway to life? The following article will answer these questions.
Can You Recall?
□ How should you view discipline?
□ If a fellow believer tells you that he has committed a serious sin, what should you urge him to do?
□ What should you do if you know that a wrongdoer has not confessed his sin to the appointed elders?
□ Whether we are elders, marriage mates, or children, how can we avoid sharing in the sins of others?
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The apostle John warned against sharing in the sins of others