While typing the headline, I myself just wondered about the wording of this title. You and I know what sin is when we read or talk about it, however, is it possible that there are differences of motives when we fall in sin? I was just thinking about the Pharisees who by condemning a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery basically did no wrong thing according to their own law as they wanted to stone her. The Jews indeed had the right to judge those who belonged to them, just as they had no right to do so with others who were no Jews like the Gentiles. But here stood Jesus who represented the end of the Old Covenant, the end of the law for all those who believe in Him (cf. Rom 10:4). He alone was the One who could show grace to this poor woman “for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17 ESV)
It was clear to everyone that she was a sinner, but it was not yet that clear to the Pharisees that they were sinners too. I am pretty sure that Jesus’ light shone into their hearts as He remained silent and wrote their names in the sand. I just referred to this outcry of the prophet Jeremiah here,
“O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” (Jer 17:13 ESV)
If Jesus had not shown them the truth of their own hearts, why did they finally leave Him? The woman instead stayed with Him and eventually she received His forgiveness. Nonetheless, Jesus told her to not sin anymore. Our Lord is a gracious Lord as I know firsthand. But the more we have come to know Him personally and intimately, the less He tolerates sin in our lives. Indeed, He wants to see a perfect bride who is blameless due to her utter dependence on Him (like this woman), NOT because of her own efforts and works (like the Pharisees).
Some Christians seem to believe that Jesus also came to abolish the sinfulness of sin and thus fall into the deception of trying to be tolerant toward everyone. In fact, like in Old Covenantal times, it is not the Church’s task to judge those who are outside the Church since God does this as 1 Cor 5:13 confirms. However, those who are inside the Church, those with who we are fellowshipping, according to verse 12 they need to be judged (or rebuked, condemned, even punished as some translators read) by us, esp. if God told us to do so. This judgment should also refer to ourselves (1 Cor 11:31) just as God gives us His light in discerning our own heart, particularly in this case when we have fallen in sin. We always have the duty to speak the truth in love with one another, however, we should also know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. If we tolerate sin in our own lives and/or in those lives of who we are fellowshipping, we will go downhill and eventually leave the Lord whether we might be aware of that danger or not.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:7-13 ESV)
As an addition I want to point you to a Scripture that seems to contradict my previous statements. Paul who was judged with carnal judgment by other believers answered them,
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor 4:1-5 ESV)
Paul did not put a ban on judgment in each and every case, but he reminded the Corinthians that a servant of God who knows about divine mysteries others don’t is always directly judged by the Lord Himself and it is truly a stricter judgment as the other believers might have ever come to know since “to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Lk 12:48 ESV) The apostle only let us know that we may only judge if we have received the light from God to do so. I believe that the Lord’s coming in 1 Cor 4:5 is the day of the Lord in our own life when the morning star has risen in our own heart, when all darkness must flee in the presence of the One whose face we may then behold, for it is the pure heart only that will be finally enabled to see the eternal God (Mt 5:8).