How do we approach a brother or sister who has sinned?
All bible quotes not otherwise marked are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016)
Sorry folks I am super late for last week. I will try to do better!
What do we do when a fellow Christian sins right before our eyes in an obvious way? First let me say if it is minor or seems like a one time lapse in judgment then don’t say anything. We all have those moments when we make a mistake and our sinful natures get the best of us. Our brother or sister is probably already mortified they said or did what they did.
What do we do though when it seems a pattern is developing? First do a quick check on yourself.
Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye
This is the classic verse. I’ve heard it is now the most popular verse among the young people. It used to be John 3:16. The takeaway by some is that we should not judge at all. Live and let live! No. We should not be hypocrites. If we have big sin problems we shouldn’t be out there policing other peoples far lesser problems.
As I said above, we should do a spiritual inventory before we set out to correct someone else. We should check out motives. Biblical correction is always about restoration. It’s not about making someone look bad or feel bad.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 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
In order to determine if your brother has sinned against you, you need to make a judgment. The bible does not contradict itself. We are to correct a sinner but we are to be very very careful when doing so.
The first step is to approach him or her quietly and alone. It should be someplace where both parties feel safe. Intimidation has no place at this point. If this person who is approached admits they did wrong and says they will not do it again, we should be happy and put it behind us. At this point, you should say that it is behind you both. Why? Well because God sets an example for us.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us
God removes our transgressions as far away as they can possibly be. The east from the west is in essence an idiom for infinitely far.
How often are we to keep forgiving?
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
So the bible says in the book of Luke that we are to rebuke our brother if he sins. Kind of punctures the whole idea that we are not to judge at all. Contradiction? No. Just reading the bible without a prejudiced eye. Don’t be a hypocrite in judging. That is the primary point of the previous verse on judging. There are a lot of hypocrites today and there were many when Jesus walked the earth. He had harsh words for them.
And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
Jesus does not like hypocrites. And what is hypocrisy but pride. It is putting yourself above others. It’s saying what is okay for me is not okay for you.
We are to approach a situation with the utmost kindness and gentleness. Often times, the response from the one approached will be an immediate accusation of sin in yourself. Don’t get angry. Don’t lose your cool. Examine yourself for if you do have sin you need to deal with that first.
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good
This is how we are to treat our enemies. The person we approach may at that moment start behaving like an enemy. They may become angry themselves and accusatory. In such a situation, it’s almost certain they have an issue with the sin you are bringing before them. If they are not receptive to correction, then that is bad as God says we should be open to it.
Be sure to meet their needs and show that you love them even if they have sinned. A hungry person is not someone you want to approach. Feed them first. Tell them you love them. Tell them you are approaching them as a fellow brother and sister in Christ and that you are trying to do it as God desires.
So what do we do at the moment when we are going to approach them?
2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
We must use the bible. If the bible does not support that they are sinning or it’s left open to our freedom in Christ, then we should not accuse them of sin. If we think they have an unhealthy behavior that is not explicitly sinful in all cases, we should approach them humbly. If they push back we should fall back.
It’s not a sin to eat a cookie. It is a sin to eat so many that your blood sugar skyrockets and you start having health problems. Take this from a person who takes medicine for his type 2 diabetes.
In everything we should show our love. The problem for some is our pride keeps us from receiving criticisms. Our pride causes us to lash out. If you haven’t learned how to take criticism you should stay away from giving it. Work on that major sin in your life before looking into others. We should celebrate that someone cares enough to approach us. They may not be right or they may be holding to a view about sin that is unbiblical. If it really bothers them, you should restrain your own activities.
1 Cor 8:7-13
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
It was no sin to eat food sacrificed to idols. Paul still said don’t do it if it becomes a major issue for a weaker brother. We can’t let our freedom hurt our weaker brother. That goes for sisters too of course.
Thank you for reading. There will be more God willing. I love you all. I pray God blesses your mission.