What happens when we see sin in another person? How should we deal with it?
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Do we call it out?
Do we get angry?
Do we give them a pass because we are to “not judge” and because “I’m a sinner too?”
Do we ignore it because we aren’t perfect ourselves?
Do we “out” them to other people?
How do we deal with it when we see someone else sin?
The short answer is, “Very humbly and very carefully.”
Some longer thoughts are as follows:
- Sin indeed needs to be confronted. 1Cor 5.1-11 gives a story of sin being ignored in the Corinthian church. The Apostle calls upon them to confront and correct the error. So ignoring sin earns the church a rebuke, and therefore is not an option for us. We are called to discern right from wrong, without question.
- Sin should primarily only be confronted in believers. In the same passage, Paul writes: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside,” (1Cor 5.12-13) People who have never agreed to follow the Word of the Lord are not to be corrected by the Church, anymore that I should be rebuked for not following the Koran. I’ve never committed myself to the Koran, so why would anyone expect me to follow it? Our corrections are for committed believers.
- Remember the Golden Rule. Jesus taught, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” (Mt 7.12). If you were being confronted in your own sin, how would you want to be treated? No doubt with compassion, grace, patience, etc., even if it was a tough conversation. That being the case, we must extend compassion, grace, patience, etc.
- How you judge another will be how you are judged. We reap what we sow. Jesus said, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Mt 7.2) What measure would you like to be judged with? How would you like that to go for yourself? By that same measure, engage with another.
- Be sure you are no hypocrite. How many preachers have we seen rail against sexual sin in others, only to be caught up in their own scandals? The outrage when this happens often isn’t so much for the sin, which is still bad, but as much it is with the hypocrisy of judging another while doing the same sorts of things. Jesus taught, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye,” (Mt 7.3-5). Before we go poking around in another’s eyeball, we had better be sure our own eye is clear, and even then, we are only cleared out so that we can help clean out the other’s eye. Freedom from sin is the goal! And if you are calling it out in someone, you are signing up to help.
- Be gentle, and seek restoration. Pointing out sin is never about embarrassment, shame, punishment, or revenge, but only about healing and restoration, helping our brother or sister to find freedom from what binds them. Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently,” (Gal 6.1a). Our goal is always to help, not to hurt.
- Be humble. Don’t ever think that you might not fall into the same sins. In talking about restoring someone gently, Paul also says, “But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted,” (Gal 6.1b). Don’t get cocky, self-righteous, or arrogant; we are all sinners, and we will all need restoration and help at some point. Sin has a way of spreading, so we are to be careful and on guard.
- Remember what love does. In addition to everything else that 1Corinthians 13 says about love, we are told that love “always protects” (1Cor 13.7). To be clear, this doesn’t mean covering up illegal actions or silencing things that the Church may need to hear after repeated efforts to address the issue (Mt 18.17). It does mean that we seek to protect the sinner’s dignity and reputation, and their privacy where possible. None of us would want our struggles broadcast to the world, and we should act thusly towards others.
No doubt there is more to say, but here are some thoughts to ponder.
May we extend mercy and grace to one another, as we seek to help and restore one another to wholeness in Jesus.
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