“If you see a thief, you are accepting of him and you have a portion with adulterers. You address your mouth to evil and your tongue joins in deceit. You sit to speak against your brother and your mother’s son you slander.”
Remember once again, God is not rebuking the pagan unbeliever here, he is speaking to his own covenant people. Indeed, these words should convict us at just how greatly we tolerate sin in the life of the church. We accept thieves. No, perhaps not the masked bandits who climb into the open windows of people’s homes, but how often are the people of God guilty of cheating on their taxes, stealing from a government to which God calls us to pay our taxes (Romans 13:6). How often God’s people are guilty of borrowing from one another or from the church with no intention of repaying? And how often do the people of God work to steal the joy of blessings from one another when things are going poorly! And when this happens, where are the Elders when it comes to disciplining the body? No, they are accepting of the sin.
Similarly the same can be said with adultery. And likewise, while there may not be active adultery taking place on a physical level, Jesus reminds us that if we even think with lust in our hearts about a man or a woman, then we are guilty of the sin even if we never act upon it (Matthew 5:27-30). And thus sin is committed in thought as well as deed and it applies to things that our culture considers of no consequence, things like pornography and flirtatious behavior. And again, if one turns a blind eye toward the sin, one is guilty of having a portion with them.
And then, what shall we say about the tongue? For the Christian, the tongue is for blessing, for speaking truth, and for singing praises to God with thanksgiving. We are not to be given to lies (big or small), half-truths, fowl language, slander, gossip, back-biting, or any other sort of language that tears people down — even if we say, “Bless his heart…” afterwards. That which comes out of the mouth of a person is what defiles and reveals the sinfulness of their heart (Mark 7:18-23). To adapt a phrase from a popular movie of the 1990’s, “Evil is as Evil does.”
The question is not whether sins like this will show themselves in the Christian church but instead, what is done with them when they do show themselves. Do the guilty repent and seek to amend their ways? If so, good. If not, do the Elders act with loving discipline to call on the body to amend their ways? If so, good. If not, be wary, you may not be in a true church. There will be ample times where there is a want of discipline; there ought never be a neglect of discipline in the church of Jesus Christ.