How Do You Know When to Correct Another Christian?
- Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Many other places in the New Testament speak to the value of correction. James commands us to warn brothers wandering away from the faith (James 5:19-20). Paul tells us to caution those who ignore his teaching (2 Thess 3:14-15). It’s a loving thing to point out the sin in the life of a brother or sister.
However, before you correct your brother or sister, work through the following questions:
1. Have you observed the sin? There may be times when you need to confront on the basis of another person’s testimony. However, in most cases, it is best to correct a brother or sister over sin that you have witnesses yourself.
2. Can you point out, from Scripture, how your brother or sister is sinning? Biblical correction should be just that, “biblical.” We shouldn’t care if other people are failing to live up to our standards; the question is whether they are heeding God’s standards. Job’s friends assumed that Job had sinned. They were wrong. Their misguided assumptions frustrated Job and angered God. Don’t be like them.
3. Has a pattern of sin developed? Each one of us falls short of God’s standard every day. If we corrected one another every time we sinned, there wouldn’t be time to do anything else but speak words of correction. So unless the sin is unusually public and unseemly (see 1 Cor 5), consider overlooking it.
4. Is the honor of Christ or the clarity of the gospel at stake? When the churches in Galatia started down the road of accepting a false gospel, Paul quickly and decisively spoke against them, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Gal 1:6). A “different gospel” than Paul preached is really no gospel. It can’t save anyone. And worse yet, it may lead others to think they are saved when they are not. Facing such a scandal, we must speak like Paul.
Generally speaking, you should correct a brother or sister when you see a pattern of sin that calls his or her salvation into question. If we love our brothers and sister then we will carefully point out their sins. Remaining silent in the face of ongoing rebellion against God is like piling wood in the arms of a man standing in the middle of a burning house. This truth should make us zealous to speak out, to be in accountability groups where private sins can be addressed, and to build relationships where we don’t just talk about the weather but we dig into each others personal lives.
When to overlook
However, a word of caution is in order. There are times where no response is the best response. Consider the following verses:
o Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
o Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers over all offenses.”
o 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
In light of passages like this, we must keep in mind that the Christian response to sin is, at times, silence. This refusal to correct can be an act of grace that points people to the gospel. When we overlook another’s sin we are lovingly modeling for them the mercy and patience that we ourselves have received from God.
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