I have been a member of the Lord's church for about three years, after being brought to the church by my college roommate. I have been a dedicated reader of your site since I discovered it and appreciate all of the information provided. I have not seen anything on your web site quite like my situation, however, and would like your advice. Since I am a 'newbie' to the church I think I am missing something here.
I am currently engaged to the son of one of the elders. My fiance is in the military and currently stationed overseas, so it is not easy to reach him to ask his opinion. In the congregation I attend there is another young woman whom the elders suspect of living with her boyfriend. They have confronted this young woman (her boyfriend is apparently not a member of the church) and she has denied the accusation. I have been brought into this situation by my fiance's father, since I live in the same apartment complex as this other woman. I have been asked to watch her activities and report to the elders if I see the boyfriend's car present overnight. I am not well acquainted with this woman and am deeply uncomfortable essentially spying on her. I was raised to mind my own business. I am also concerned this could be interpreted as 'stalking' type behavior, which is illegal.
I tried to explain my concerns to my fiance's father and the other elders. I was told my concerns were irrelevant and that as a member of the Lord's church, and a woman, my submission to their direction was required and my eternal soul was at stake if I was not willing to confront sin. I readily admit to not being well versed in the Bible yet, and I know that as a woman my submission is mandatory but I cannot balance their requirement of me to watch this woman's activities with my conscience which tells me it's none of my business. Any opinion or advice you can provide will be helpful.
The elders failed to do their duty properly. They were told that someone was committing fornication. They didn't gather the required two or three witnesses that the Bible requires for charges. Instead, they ask the young woman if she was involved in sin and she said, "No." For whatever reason, they think she is lying, but again it is based on no evidence. "But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established'" (Matthew 18:16).
Their enlisting you to help them was also wrong because it degraded the reputation of this young woman to a bystander without evidence. This is a form of gossiping. When someone is sinning, the sin needs to be addressed with the minimal number of people involved as possible.
It would be a different matter if you were talking to this young woman and she mentioned that her boyfriend was spending the night. Then you would have been obligated to inform her that this wasn't right (Hebrews 13:4). If she wouldn't listen to you, then you find a few other people to come with you to talk to her. If she would not listen to them, then at least there would have been multiple people who heard her say that she was committing fornication.
While a eldership watches over a congregation, they are not dictators. "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (I Peter 5:2-3). Nor can an eldership ask anyone to do what is wrong. The fact that this elder claims that your soul is at stake for not obey human directives for which he has no biblical verse to support himself is very disturbing. Elders don't decide a person's destiny. Their duty is to encourage people to follow the Bible. When someone asks you to do something that you aren't certain is right, ask him for the book, chapter and verse that supports what he is requesting.
Meanwhile, I would suggest ignoring this improper request. If you are asked about it, merely state that you could not come up with a scriptural reason for doing what they asked. If they press, show them this letter and suggest they may want to talk to me and reconsider what they are doing.