Return Without Repentance?

(Return Without Repentance?) Bible Question.

Question:

“We have some members here who quit attending services for a long time. A few months ago they came back, began to attend regularly, and are now being asked to lead prayers and teach. They did all of this without confessing any sin or requesting forgiveness. Is this right?”

Answer:

I understand your concern. If people are to take part in the body life of the church, they should represent the body well. If sin has taken place, they should acknowledge that and seek help from the body of believers. But, recall what John the baptizer told his audience . . .

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (Luke 3:8a; New International Version)

John had a lot of religious-looking people coming to him for baptism. But he was not as interested in the form of religion as he was in the heart behind the actions. He insisted that their lives reflected what the baptism represented. If baptism is for forgiveness, then people should act as if they were cleansed. If their baptism indicated a renewed dedication to God, then the lives of those people would bring forth fruit that demonstrated that dedication.

Using those principles, it seems to me that the people who had forsaken the assembly of the church (Hebrews 10:25), and then returned, have demonstrated a change of heart (which is repentance). From what you have described, they have produced fruit worthy of repentance. They have proven a change of actions (fruits) since they were not attending and now are.

If you are concerned about the sincerity of their repentance, then follow the Lord’s teaching and personally go to them . . .

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.– Matthew 18:15 – 17 (New American Standard Bible)

In a personal conversation with these people, you can express your concern for them, and they in turn can explain their actions and convictions.

I recently came across an article about how to leave and not leave a church. You may find it helpful. Here’s the link:

How (Not) To Leave the Church (Frank Viola)

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