Have you ever been involved in a situation of having to urge a brother or sister in Christ to repent? This is otherwise known as implementing church discipline, or Matthew 18:15-18.
“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 18:15-18a (NASB)
If your brother or sister sins you are obligated to go to him or her and in Christlike love help them to see their sin. In doing so, you are urging them to repent and change at the heart level.
Repentance is the result of being convicted or convinced by the Holy Spirit that what a person is doing is sinful and does not glorify God. It could be your words, or the Scripture that you have them read that the Spirit uses to spur them to change, but the key is that they are internally motivated to cease the sin. It is important to understand that it is God who gives the gift of repentance. When a person is unrepentant it is because God has not granted it to them. It is also important to understand that it is not enough to get someone to simply stop their sinful behavior, because without a change of heart they will soon return to the sin.
Unfortunately, sometimes our urgings to repent go unheeded and the person continues to sin. We are then faced with a decision to go repeatedly to them or to drop the issue. It seems most people are motivated to go once or twice, but beyond that they tend to give up and write the person off. The reasons for this vary, but I think the overriding reason is we assume they are never going to change. Our attention span for such things is rather short and when there is no receptivity to our heartfelt pleas we quickly turn in other directions.
How many times are we to urge a person to repent? I am personally involved in two situations where groups of people are urging someone to repent for more than seven months. Two separate people, two entirely different situations and in both cases despite prayer, and consistent prodding the individuals refuse to repent.
Because I do not know if and when God will grant them the gift of repentance I continue to urge them to do so in spite of their negative response. Am I wasting my time? I could be, I know that but these two people (who both claim to be believers) are in a perilous position right now. One is in grave spiritual danger because of their leadership position in the church and the other is a young person who is intending on marrying an unbeliever. Both are currently acting like unbelievers- willful, self-righteous, prideful, and a whole host of other un-Christlike things but I cannot allow their response to dictate my actions.
The number of times a person is to urge repentance is not mentioned in Scripture only that we are to do so. We know from the above passage that once we have determined there is no more we can do in a private confrontati0n with a person we are to bring in another, then if those efforts fail we are to bring in another and go as a group to urge repentance.
All of this is admittedly an exhausting process, doing what is right often is! I think it is worth it to help someone who has fallen into a pit or even to warn someone who has walked headlong into a sinful situation. Most of us live a long time and eternity is...well, eternal. If there is anything we can do to rescue a sinning brother or sister in Christ we must do so! The end result of unrepentance is the very, very serious business of being put out of the church as an unbeliever.