What do you do when a fellow Christian sins?
Few of us relish the thought of confronting a fellow believer who is caught up in sin. We know that nobody’s perfect; everybody sins. We’re all aware of Jesus’ caution against judging others. At the same time, when serious error or ongoing sin is involved, there comes a point at which it just isn’t an option to let it continue unconfronted.
That’s not a task anybody enjoys. Fortunately, the Bible lays out some very clear guidelines about how to approach such a situation.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. — Galatians 6:1-6 (NIV)
If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. — Matthew 18:15-17 (HCSB)
Questions to Consider
- According to these passages, what is the desired end result of confronting a believer who has fallen into sin?
- What is the danger that the Galatians passage cautions us to watch out for?
- How do these guidelines—which emphasize private, personal confrontation before taking an issue to the public church—fit in today’s online world, where privacy is rare and it’s easy to publicly interact with people you don’t personally know?
- Has anyone ever confronted you about something sinful you were doing, in accordance with these guidelines? What was the result, and what did you learn from the experience?