Sometimes a person's last words show where their priorities were in life or at least what they spent most of their life doing. Marie Antoinette was to be executed by guillotine during the French Revolution, and you could see her preoccupation with social etiquette right to the end. She accidentally stepped on the executioner's foot while walking up to the guillotine and her last words were "Pardonnez-moi monsier" ("excuse me, sir"). What her life had been wrapped up in just came out, and they were recorded because they were such a strange paradox for her to ask pardon for stepping on a foot when they are about to cut her head off.
Dominique Bouhours endlessly promoted a higher standard of grammar. His last words were, "I am about to – or I am going to – die. Either expression is used." He was a teacher right to the end.
Gabriele D'Annunzo was a big partier, traveler, and socialite. You could see what was important to her because all she could think to say as she was dying was: "I'm bored. I'm bored," just before she breathed her last. Sad!
Last words often reveal a lot about a person. Queen Elizabeth I of England said, "All my possessions for a moment of time." She obviously had no security in death. She feared death.
James Rogers, jokester to the end was executed in 1960 in Nevada by a firing squad. When he was asked if he had any last requests, he said, "Why yes. I'd like a bulletproof vest."
I love Matthew Henry's last words. He said, "a life spent in the service of God and communion with Him, is the most pleasant life that anyone can live in this world." And then he died.
Now these are not really the last words uttered by James in his life, but they do stand as a glorious conclusion to this short epistle. They show his pastor's heart. His whole life had been spent in shepherding people into wholeness. They show that though he was tough on the congregation, he longed for their welfare. And even though this epistle ends rather abruptly, unlike Paul's epistles that are filled with expressions of love and greetings to various saints, these words show the kind of character that our congregation should have towards those who stray.
The church is a brotherhood and sisterhood of restoration
I think the first, and the most obvious truth that we can find in these verses is that our church needs to be a brotherhood and a sisterhood of restoration. Now that's hard. Bringing back wandering brothers can sometimes be a messy business; it can sometimes make you cringe; it can sometimes involve smear campaigns against your reputation. And yet, God wants us to love each other enough to risk disapproval; to risk attack so that we can bring wanderer's back to wholeness.
But what frequently happens is the opposite. We bungle this job because we get frustrated with that wandering brother, and we say "Good riddance!" We get irritable and angry at the things that they have done to us after we have sacrificed so much for them. We take a "sour grapes" attitude and think that they deserve whatever they get, because they have spurned our love. It's so easy for Christians to gossip instead of to gospel; to kick them when they are down instead of to carry them back to the hospital. And it's true that restoration can be a frustrating work. But obviously James wants his last word to this congregation to be an exhortation to restoration. It doesn't matter how far down a person has fallen, if they repent, we ought to be ready to restore. Like the father of the prodigal son, it would be wise to put on a feast of celebration when there is restoration.
Who is called to the work of restoration? ("Brethren…someone…he")
But I want you to notice who it is that is called to this work of restoration. You would think that having just mentioned the positive role of elders in anointing with oil, James might mention their role in restoring sinners. Isn't that the job of elders and pastors? Well, they are engaged in that work, but if James had wanted to highlight that fact, he had a perfect opportunity to mention the elders again. But he does not. He puts the burden of restoration on the brethren as a whole. And to me this is a very significant statement. He says, Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone [not an elder; just someone] turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. It is a brother in the Lord who turns this sinner back. That's the only qualification you need.
James is appealing to the Old Testament doctrine of the universal priesthood of believers. And by the way, don't let people tell you that this is only a New Testament doctrine. 1 Peter 2:5 (which the doctrine of universal priesthood is based on) quotes Exodus 19:6 to prove the doctrine of universal priesthood. Listen to Exodus 19:6. God tells the people, And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Moses did not want the people to think that the priests alone could do restoration. This is a work for everyone.
When you see people slipping, you need to come along side of them and encourage them, exhort them and lead them back. Hebrews 10 describes the process of a person falling away from the faith into total apostasy, and it is in that context that He says, And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. This ministry is a ministry of the saints. Paul says that the officers of the church are given to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, not to do all of the ministry themselves.
Who is capable of backsliding? ("Anyone among you")
But third, notice who is capable of backsliding and of heading toward certain death. He says, Brethren, if anyone among you wanders… It's clearly a professing brother who wanders, and that word "anyone" indicates that anyone in the church could stumble if they are not careful. Don't think that the church is immune to scandal. Some of you have everything that it takes to lead to the big fall. I can see it so clearly. I see the signs of rebellion, the flirtation, the flaunting of the body. For some of you it may be invisible to me. Perhaps you refuse to guard your thought life. You relish in thinking about sin. Or perhaps your first love for God is growing cold; you are not longer having devotions. Prayer is a thing of the past. Do you know what is happening? You are wandering from the campfire of God's love and grace, totally oblivious to the glowing eyes watching your retreat from the safety of God's fire. It's so gradual, that we many times do not notice until we are so far from the fire that the demons can take us down.
I have talked to pastors who were justifying the lack of hedges in their lives. In fact, in a couple of cases I warned leaders that their lack of hedges could easily cause them to have a big stumble. But they thought it was legalism to be on guard against the flesh. And these pastors stumbled into sexual sin and were barred from the ministry. I have talked to numerous young men and women who thought that Biblical principles of courtship was legalism and who loved to recreationally date and kiss and hug. I have talked to them both before and after they have fallen into sin. I talked to a pastor who was caught stealing church money. I talked to a Christian gal who was opposed to abortion both before and after she got an abortion. She never thought that would happen to her, yet the fear of getting caught led her to murder just as surely as David's fear of getting caught led him to murder. Who is capable of backsliding? Everyone one of you if you do not guard your life. Any one of you can be taken down by the spiritual beasts out there if you wander too far from the campfire.
Is backsliding a foregone conclusion? No ("if")
But there is an encouraging word in that sentence too. It is the word "if." That word "if" is a contingency word. A contingency is something that may or may not happen. It can go either direction. Well, that means that backsliding is not a foregone conclusion. Some people think that the pull of the flesh is so strong that everyone backslides. That is not true. Sin is powerful, but Paul says that were sin abounds, grace abounds much more. Much more. And there are many people who have been kept from stumbling. Jude ends with the words Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy… He is able to keep you from stumbling. He is able to present you faultless. That is not just empty rhetoric. How does the book of Job begin? It begins with God's statement, There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. It is possible to keep from backsliding. Job was not without a sin nature. In fact, the sin nature comes out later in the book. But he kept that sin nature in such check by God's grace that God could tell Satan in verse 8: Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? Now think about that. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He loves to tally up sins. But Satan couldn't find any fault in Job. Why? He can't read the mind. He can only judge the fruit. And outwardly, it says, Job did not sin with his mouth. We know later that he had sin in his heart. But he blameless outwardly. The only accusation that Satan could make was that Job would backslide if God stop blessing him.
Is backsliding a foregone conclusion? No. Is keeping your body pure an impossible command from Paul's lips? No. By God's grace, you can strive for that. Is keeping your mind pure an impossible goal? No. I doubt that anyone struggled with evil thoughts as much as I did as a teenager and through my twenties – until a pastor showed me Christ's powerful method of purifying the mind. And using those techniques I not only gained purity in mind during the day, but even purified my dreams at night. Is backsliding a foregone conclusion? No. While everyone of us needs to heed the caution of the former point – that apart from the grace of God, any of us could fall into any sin, yet we also need to take comfort from this "if."
What is the process of backsliding?
Holding to wrong thinking (the Greek of "wanders" = planao, which involves a sense of being deceived)
But let's look next at the process of backsliding. When James says, if anyone among you wanders, the word for wanders has two components – a gradual drift, and the idea of deception. The Greek word planao can mean both wandering and deception.
So the first step in our downward slide is to be deceived into thinking that what we are doing is not wrong. And this self-deception is almost always there. If you confront a person at this point, it takes an act of God to make them realize their error. If they are falling into pride, they can't see it. Everyone around them can. It's sort of like eating garlic. I love garlic, but I'm always concerned afterwards if my breath is going to knock people over after a night at the Italian restaurant with loads of roasted garlic. I think the solution is that we need to force everyone in the world to eat garlic every day, and then we won't need to worry. But you get my point.
If you confront petty theft in the office, people can usually justify it. The boss isn't paying me what I am worth anyway. I'm just taking what my salary should be. He is stealing from me, so I am just getting a little bit of what is mine. Almost every fall into big sin involves the justification of little sins. There is deception.
Avoiding the truth ("from the truth")
The next step is to avoid the truth. Even when we know deep down that we have done wrong, we don't want to think about it to be able to maintain the self-deception. He wanders, it says, from the truth. There is a movement away from truth. Why are churches that preach hard core truth usually not packed out during times of no revival? It is because the truth is too uncomfortable. Of course, even when people listen to the truth, they can avoid it in other ways. Throughout the sermon they can be thinking – "I hope that so-and-so is listening. He needs this sermon." We are agreeing with the truth while avoiding the truth, because we are failing to apply it to ourselves. We are failing to ask the Holy Spirit to search me and show me if there is any wicked way in me. If you are not continually applying the truth and changing, then the likelihood is that you are moving from the truth. This is one of those things that you can't stay static on. You are either moving forward or backward.
Gradual (but deliberate) compromises ("wanders")
But then the word planaomai, which is translated here as "wanders", means to move about, without definite destination or particular purpose — "to wander about.." Hebrews 11:38 translates it, "they wandered in the deserts and hills." And so this speaks of a gradual, but deliberate compromise. Wandering takes time.
You probably all know the story of the farmer who thought he would save some money on the oats that he fed his mule. He mixed a little sawdust in with the feed, then a little more the next day, and even more the next day, each time reducing the amount of oats in the mix. And the mule didn't seem to mind and didn't see to notice the gradual change. So the farmer thought things were fine and kept decreasing the proportion of oats. But weeks later, on the day he finally fed the mule nothing but sawdust, the mule finished the meal and fell over dead.
That's obviously simply a parable. But it is a good parable of how Christians can slide further and further away from God when they do not repent of their sins. Initially they mix God's Word with man's wisdom and man's entertainment. And at first, no one can tell the difference. It's just a little spiritual sawdust. But over time, as the proportion of sin increases and as the spiritual food decreases, the person stuffed on sawdust collapses and everyone is shocked. How could this be? Well, it happened gradually.
Other ways to backslide
Let me quickly list some of the other ways that we can backslide. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, Do not be deceived: evil company corrupts good habits. We might think that the friendship we have are not so bad. After all, we need to be reaching out to unbelievers, don't we? Yet we are not standing up for truth. In fact, we are embarrassed into silence, and peer pressure causes us to do things we wouldn't otherwise do. And so over time we find that we aren't influencing them. They are influencing us. We begin to cuss like them. We begin to preoccupied with the things that preoccupy the world. It happens so slowly that we don't realize how quickly we have wandered. So this first way is by spending too much time with the wrong company – 1 Corinthians 125:33.
A second way is to spurn the Spirit's conviction. Ephesians calls it grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). Psalm 119:118 says of God, You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood. Because we have deliberately rejected God on that point, God abandons us to our own devises. This is what happened to Samson. On that last time with Delilah, he didn't know that the Lord had abandoned him.
Third, James 1:15 describes how a wayward thought that is entertained too long can bring forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. So backsliding frequently starts in the thought life.
Fourth, 1 Timothy 4:1-2 says that some people depart from the faith because they listened to false doctrine, and these lies against the truth so seared their consciences that they had no discernment to resist further compromises. It scares me when people express hatred for a doctrine without every studying it out. I read one evangelical say that he could never worship a God who would send people to hell. Well then, he is worshipping a god in his own image. He had predetermined what the truth should be. And this resistance to truth and embracing of heresy will lead him to eventually embrace all sorts of errors.
Fifth, Hebrews 10, the passage that I quoted earlier about not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together is a passage that clearly shows how isolation can lead to total apostasy. Just as coals grow quickly cold when they are scattered from each other, Hebrews 10 says that our hearts grow cold to God when we are scattered from each other.
Hebrews 12:15 says, looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; When bitterness is allowed to fester within, it always gets worse and worse and eventually corrupts the whole of our being and corrupts those around us. So he said that we need to watch out the moment we notice bitterness creeping in, and pluck it up by the roots.
There are other compromises that can lead to this downward slide, but let me give one more. Hebrews 3:12-13 says, Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. He says that if we allow unbelief over anything God has said to take hold of our hearts, it will lead to departing from God and further sin.
Is there hope for a backslider? ("turns him back… turns a sinner from the error of his way")
But the fifth question in the outline is this: "Is there hope for a backslider?" And we must say, absolutely yes, if there is repentance. The words, turns him back and the words turns a sinner from the error of his way show that it is possible to turn from backsliding. We can't presume upon it. We never know when we have gone too far and fallen into the unpardonable sin, from which there is no repentance. But there is hope for brothers you have seen falling away into sin. Even if they have been excommunicated there is hope. Paul said that excommunication is not for the purpose of getting rid of a problem. It is heightening the discipline for the purpose of restoring such a person. Though a brother whom you all know will be cut off from the people of God next week if there is no repentance, I am still hopeful that discipline will bring restoration. In a sense, he has cut himself off from the people of God, and it has been our attempt to restore him to our church or to some church. But it hasn't happened yet.
How serious is backsliding?
It is deception (meaning of "error")
The last question is, "How serious is backsliding?" The simple answer is that it is extremely serious. When we are on the downward slide, we can never presume that we will be restored. What all too typically happens is that such a person never again recognizes his need for repentance. He is deceived by the evil one. The word "error" is literally deception. We can be self-deceived, deceived by demons, deceived by cults. But deception is one of those things that tends to be reinforcing and ever harder to extract oneself from. Initially you think you can quit. But after awhile you don't even think of quitting. It is the last thing on your mind. And it takes someone from outside confronting the sin and using apologetics like Nathan did with David to rescue the person from the deception.
It is a path that moves ever further away ("his way")
The second thing that makes this so serious is that backsliding is a path that moves ever further away. It speaks of "his way," and those words are literally "his road," or "his path." It is not a static position. Backsliding is movement. It is movement away from the Lord and toward the ways of death. This means that the longer a person remains on this path, the harder it is to return, and the longer it takes to return. This makes it serious to wait.
Of course, even there, there are examples of people who have returned after a long backsliding, but they are few. And usually they struggle with undoing habits and strongholds. But for your encouragement, let me give an example of a person who returned to the Lord. I got this from Osbeck's Hymn Stories.
Some of you may know the hymn, "Come thou fount of every blessing." It was written by Robert Robinson, a man who had been saved out of a awful life of sin through the ministry of George Whitefield in England. Here was a man who had been changed by grace, was growing in the Lord. His testimony was a wonderful testimony. And he wrote this hymn to the Lord. But then he began to make the small compromises that led to drifting or wandering. Before he knew it, he had wandered far from grace and began once again to live a debauched life. He was a prodigal son, but to the eyes of many people he looked like he had never been saved in the first place. Otherwise, how could someone live comfortably in sin for so long?
But one day he was traveling by stagecoach and was sitting beside a young lady who was engrossed in a book that she was reading. And she read a poem in this book that she thought was beautiful, and she put down her book and she wanted him to hear it. After reading it, she asked him what he thought of it. To her surprise he burst into tears and said that he was the one who had written that hymn years ago. He said, "Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand words, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then." Although she was taken aback and surprised, she reassured him that the "streams of mercy" that the hymn talked about continue to flow toward sinners. He was touched by God's grace, and was restored to full fellowship in the church.
I give that story both to illustrate that restoration can happen, even when a person has wandered far from the fold, but also to show how small compromises, when they are not dealt with always lead you further and further away.
Unless backsliding is reversed, it will lead to death ("will save a soul from death")
The third thing in this text that shows the seriousness of backsliding is that unless the backsliding is reversed, it will lead to death. James says, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death… This has been a puzzling text for many because it is talking about a brother who is headed toward death. He says in verse 19: Brethren, if anyone among you wanders... How can a brother; how can a saved person be in danger of death? And there have been various explanations. Arminians say that he loses his salvation. We object that Jesus said, And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. And they respond that though it is true that no one can snatch us out of His hand, we can jump out of His hand. They say that we can lose our salvation by our own free will. And we respond, "But then the first part of the verse is contradicted, which says, And I will give them eternal life, and they shall never perish… It's not eternal life if we have it, then lose it, then have it, then lose it again. It's temporary life. And Jesus said it was eternal life, and that they shall never perish. They respond that eternal life presupposes eternal believing. And actually, there is an element of truth in that. But we respond that God is the one who gives us faith, and He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. It's all of grace, and not of works. If our works don't gain salvation, they can't lose salvation. If free will didn't gain salvation, then free will can't lose salvation. To say that we lose salvation by sin is to say that our salvation is based upon our works. Paul said that he was persuaded that nothing in all of creation could separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing can separate us – that includes our free will.
But then the five point Arminian appeals to Matthew 7:21 which says, Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness. And five point Calvinists agree with five point Arminians that these verses insist that without perseverance no one will get to heaven, that without holiness no one will see the Lord, and that we are being saved from their sins. But Arminians say that we are saved because we persevere and Calvinists say that we persevere because we are saved. There is a world of difference between those two phrases. We do not deny that some professing believers will fall away and go to hell. But we say that this was proof positive that it was a false profession; that they weren't believers in the first place; that they weren't saved in the first place. And so, whether you are a five point Arminian or a five point Calvinist, these are serious words.
But even among five point Calvinists, there are different interpretations on this verse. And it really doesn't matter which direction you take this, it still shows how serious backsliding is. Is this spiritual death that James is talking about, or is it physical death? You could argue either way. Those who say it is "spiritual death" in hell will point to the fact that it is a "soul" that is being talked about here, not a body. Those who argue that it is physical death point out that the word "soul" is often translated as person – will save a person from death.
But I am not sure that we have to choose. We know that a true believer cannot lose his salvation. But the trouble is, that we do not know who is and who is not a true believer. How do you discover that? You discover it by seeing the fruits of grace, and God's grace always causes His people to persevere, and when they backslide, to repent and pursue after holiness. 1 John starts by saying that we are liars if we say that we have no sin. So he rules out perfectionism. But then he goes on to say, Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. The Spirit hates sin, and if He is indwelling you, he is causing you to hate sin, and to long for holiness. If you don't have that longing, it is partial evidence that He has never changed your nature and made you new.
1 John later says of apostates: they went out from us that it might be made manifest that they were never of us. In other words, John is saying that if a person persists in apostasy, it is clear that they were never truly born again in the first place. So a person who is in a state of backsliding cannot have any comfort of "once saved always saved." In fact the doctrine of once saved always saved is not the Biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It is a counterfeit. Once saved always saved means that a person can make a profession of faith, and then live the rest of his life like the devil and have comfort that he will be saved. But it is a false comfort. The Bible says that the truly saved will persevere in their faith and their fight against sin until they get to heaven, and they do so because God's grace preserves them. If he doesn't persevere, he wasn't saved in the first place.
So let me read that verse from Matthew 7 again to show you how it cannot be taken in the way intended by five point Arminians. Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, [he is saying that not every profession of faith is genuine. Some people who we think have entered the kingdom, actually are still in the kingdom of Satan even though they have church membership. "Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of heaven."] but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. [That's the whole point of salvation, it's to save us from our sins. Matthew 1:21 says, "you shall call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins." Christ didn't die just to save people from hell. He died to make us comfortable in sin. Titus 2:14 says, "who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." So Jesus is saying that if you have a profession but no change of life, then it is evident by your fruits that you still aren't saved. He goes on to explain:] Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness. He doesn't say, "I knew you once, but you lost your salvation and I don't know you anymore." No! He says, "I never knew you." That means that they were never saved; they were never part of his family. And you might say, "How could they have prophesied and done miracles?" And the answer is that even the antichrist could do miracles. But only a Christian can have a new heart that produces hatred for sin, hungering and thirsting for righteousness and a passion for God's kingdom.
Now don't get me wrong: We can't read the heart. In fact, we are forbidden from reading the hearts of men and women. If they are not excommunicated from the church we must still treat them as brothers. We might have our doubts, but we must treat them as brothers. If they are excommunicated from the church (or, as in the case of some people, if they excommunicate themselves), even if we suspect that they are brothers, we may not treat them as brothers. They are heathens and publicans. They have gone out into the realm of death. And anyone who persists in a backslidden state is probably not saved. So when you are restoring them, you are truly restoring them from realm of death. And so, even if this is a reference to saving from hell, I don't think that it contradicts the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.
But some people take this as a reference to physical death; that God will bring disease and eventual death in order to bring a true believer to repentance. And in light of verses 15-16, that interpretation makes sense. There are several Scriptures which clearly teach that doctrine. 1 Corinthians 11, 1 John 5 and others. In fact, that happened to a pastor in our Presbytery back in the early 80's. He was a married man who had a crush on a married woman in the congregation; talked that woman into divorcing her husband, and he was in process of divorcing his wife when Presbytery stepped in and intervened. But he would not repent. He told me that this may not be God's perfect will, but it was His permissive will because God had led him to do this. I remonstrated that God never contradicts His perfect will, and his guidance came from a different source. But you could see the downward spiral into a worse and worse condition after he was disciplined. The anger, the justification of sin. And finally, God took him out with a rare infection of the brain. As he was dying he thanked God for His discipline, thanked the church for their discipline and repented of his sins. But I believe he had crossed the invisible barrier where God says, "Enough is enough. Even with repentance there is not going to be any healing." And there was no healing. It is what 1 John calls a sin unto death.If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. So either way that you interpret this passage, it shows the seriousness of backsliding. Never ignore the symptoms within you. Fear it; flee from it; repent of it and cling to the Lord for mercy. There but for the grace of God go everyone of us.
It becomes impossible to stop with just the one sin – it leads to "a multitude of sins"
The final reason we should take this seriously is that once you start down this road of backsliding it becomes impossible to stop with just the one sin. If that one sin is not repented of, sin starts springing up everywhere like dandelions. This restoration of a brother quickly not only saves a sinner from the error of his way, but saves a soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. Any time there is backsliding, there is a multiplication of sins. And I have seen this in my counseling. Sins seem to snowball into larger and larger clumps as the ball rolls down the mountain side until finally it leads to an avalanche of sin. Don't ever fool around with any sin, no matter how small it may be. It starts the ball rolling downhill. You've got to nip sin in the bud immediately.
And if we love the brethren, we must have a balance between two verses. The first verse is that love covers a multitude of sins, and the second is that love confronts sin. We need to be a church that is not easily offended by the sins and attacks of other people, but we also need to be a church that perseveres in praying for, and exhorting and encouraging each other toward holiness. Let's be a church of restoration. Amen.