THE WORST PLACE TO SWEEP SIN UNDER THE RUG
Over the last several decades international scandal has developed regarding sexual abuse and other sins that have taken place and routinely been swept under the rug within the Roman Catholic Church. The moral and monetary sins of certain televangelists and other celebrity preachers have also been “swept under the rug” by those in control of these ministries. Sadly, this sort of thing isn’t confined to these examples; it happens within the context of local New Testament churches as well.
Understand that we are not addressing something in this article that is the “rule,” or that by any means is “rampant” where churches and church leadership are concerned. We’re addressing something here that is the exception to the rule, and a relatively rare occurrence. But we are addressing something that far too often is a reality, and something that merits the constant reminder that, “Brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10).
The Reality of Sin Being Swept Under the Rug
Through the years I’ve heard people relate how they’ve gone to church leaders with hard evidence of serious sin being committed within the church body; sins such as gross immorality, the mishandling and misappropriation of finances, abuses of authority and the making merchandise of God’s people in one way or another. Many of these testimonies have concluded with the sad acknowledgment that these offenses, instead of being biblically and summarily dealt with, had been, or were in the process of being, “swept under the rug.”
Sin has been and is being swept under the rug in local, professedly Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, Bible-practicing churches. This is a reality that needs to be recognized for the gross, spiritually grievous and outrageous sin that it is—the outrage that it constitutes against God and the institution Christ founded and for which He died (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 5:25).
The Reason Why Sin is Swept Under the Rug
The reasons why sin is swept under the rug in churches are varied. It may be because the pastor or another prominent member of the church is the guilty party, or it may involve one of their family members or close friends. This happens in churches where a double standard is constantly in play; where the sins of those less connected with leadership are brought out into the open and dealt with while the same offenses, when committed by those more connected with leadership are swept under the rug. Sin is allowed to be swept under the rug where churches that are “not valiant for the truth” and do not "fear God and keep His commandments” (Jer. 9:3; Ecc. 12:13). Nothing positive can result for those who cover up the sins of others and thereby make themselves “partakers” of those sins (1 Tim. 5:22).
The Rationalization for Sweeping Sin Under the Rug
Those who sweep sin under the rug, and those who aid, abet and allow it are adept at rationalizing and excusing it. Time and time again, people have been and are persuaded, “for the sake of the ministry,” to help church leadership sweep egregious sins under the rug. One line of rationalization is that the church needs to be spared having any public reproach being brought on its testimony. Another is the need to prevent jeopardizing the ministry of an “otherwise good man” — a man who should be held accountable for sin he has committed. Sometimes people are put on a guilt trip, threatened in some way or otherwise persuaded to keep quiet so that sin can be swept under the rug. Sometimes the “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone” appeal is used. But this kind of rationalization and these tactics are wicked; and they are warning signs of a spiritually toxic atmosphere that is in existence wherever churches practice and tolerate the sweeping of sin under the rug.
The Result of Sweeping Sin Under the Rug
The result of sweeping sin under the rug is predictable and inevitable. In the first place, it cuts those who do it off from God’s blessings. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaeth them shall have mercy.” This applies not only to individuals, but to churches sin their corporate capacity as well.
Secondly, sin swept under the rug often enough and long enough will sooner or later be detected. The “build up” under the rug will become apparent. People will eventually begin to suspect that there’s something under the rug. When a housekeeper forms the habit of sweeping dirt under the rug, unsightly lumps appear that are unsightly, embarrassing and a source of stumbling. It works the same away in a church.
Sin swept under the rug in a church can be seen and felt. Sooner or later its presence will become more obvious than the rug. An eternal principle is involved: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad” (Luke 8:17). Churches shouldn’t allow sin, whether just a little of it or a lot of it is involved, to be swept under the rug by anybody. They need, as it were, to take sin in hand and dealt with it consistently, in a scriptural manner and with a good spirit.
The Remedy for Sweeping Sin Under the Rug
There’s a remedy for the practice of sweeping sin under the rug. It begins when churches and pastors and churches acknowledge and repent of the practice. “For the time is come,” the Bible says, “that judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). And churches and pastors need to follow up on their acknowledgment of and repentance for sweeping sin under the rug with a heartfelt resolve not to do it any more.
There’s nothing positive, promising; pure, pretty or proper going on where sin is swept under the rug. Sin needs to be dealt with in a biblically appropriate way as each individual case warrants. This may involve any combination of things. It always involves confrontation of one sort or another. Counseling may be required. Sometimes the removal of someone from an office or other ministry position may be necessary. Public rebuke might be in order (1 Tim. 5:20). People may need to be brought under a disciplinary process that will result either in their restoration, or — worse case scenario — in their removal from a church’s fellowship. For certain, churches and their leadership should avoid even the appearance of sweeping sin under the rug.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”