Question:

Hello! I have a question about an article that I have recently found. I am a Christian and grew up in the church always believing you "need to let the congregation know you have repented of your public sins" by going forward. In the article "Does sin require a public confession before a congregation?" you stated in the conclusion that "your sin won't cause others to stumble because people know you've repented of those sins. That is the important part." Well, if you don't let the congregation know you have repented, how are they going to know? I know in this case they went to the elders and were advised that they didn't need to "go forward" because they went to them. It was a public sin, right? How can one defend this couple if it isn't brought to the congregation that they have made it right with God? Maybe you can help me understand it better. Thank you for your time!

Answer:

In the case you ask, the person stated that they had committed fornication shortly before the wedding. From that I concluded that there was not direct evidence that the sin occurred because the child conceived would have came about nine months later. Therefore, this wasn't a matter of a sin which was publicly known. It was their own guilt that led them to talk to the elders about their sin.

The elders correctly stated that there was no reason to bring up a sin that generally wasn't known just to tell people that it was forgiven. This was a case where it was proper to bury a past sin which was repented of.

"Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and 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" (James 5:19-20).

"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins" (Proverbs 10:12).

"He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends" (Proverbs 17:9).

It was this last proverb which this woman was directly violating. Perhaps you are wondering how this woman found out if it was not generally known. I found out later that she was one of the elder's wives and was undermining her husband and the elders' authority by going behind their backs because she disagreed with their conclusion. Worse, she went to the couple's friends instead of the couple directly. It is she who was in sin in this situation.

In regards to this young couple, the matter is simply addressed if anyone ever asked about the sin. It was a private sin which after it was repented of and forgiven was made more generally known by a gossiper. The couple needs only say that they repented of that sin. A brother or sister ought to accept their word on that matter. If they need further confirmation the couple could direct them to the elders. If someone brings the matter to the elders instead of the couple, they too can confirm that it was handled and repented of and there is no need for concern. Anyone bringing up the matter to any other member of the congregation is involved in gossiping and it is that sin which needs to be addressed.

"A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter" (Proverbs 11:13).

"Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another; lest he who hears it expose your shame, and your reputation be ruined" (Proverbs 25:9-10).

To say that this couple needs to publicly confess to a sin that had been forgiven because of a malicious gossip, is giving the gossip the upper hand.