Consider overlooking the sin of another Christian if you can answer yes to any of the following questions:

1.      Is the scope of offense the small, limited to you? If so, this may be a wonderful opportunity not to confront your brother or sister. It’s an chance for you to turn the other cheek, to patiently endure wrong, and to display the humility of Christ who instead of punishing you, died in your stead.

2.      Have you failed to repent of sin in your own life? Jesus warns us not to be the kind of disciple who is quick to point out the failures in other’s lives but slow to recognize the sin in his own life. “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?” (Matt 7:3). Like the passenger on the airline told to put his oxygen bag on first, we should do business with our own sin before charging our Christian friend.

3.      Is your motive the humiliation of your brother or sister? Or, put another way, “Are you correcting out of pride?” If so, it’s probably a good time to be quiet. Paul is a wonderful example. He said very hard things to the Corinthians, but he did so from a heart genuinely concerned for their well-being, not his glory. “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Cor 4:14).

4.      Could your silence speak louder than a word of correction?There are times in my marriage when my wife had every right to correct me. She witnessed patterns in my life that were unbecoming of a Christian and a pastor. Instead of confronting me she prayed and modeled godliness for me. Her kind spirit reminded me of how Paul taught the church in Rome that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom 2:4). She decided to heed Peter’s counsel and to allow her love to cover a multitude of my sins. She waited for the Holy Spirit to convict me. He did. Her silence spoke volumes.

“Sweet words,” wrote the seventeenth-century poet, Anne Bradstreet, “are like honey, a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.”

Christians know this. Our words of correction can be very sweet—the very thing God uses to renew the faith of weary saints. But our words can be unhelpful and hurtful, too. We need wisdom to know when to correct and when to overlook.

Aaron Menikoff (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. He blogs at "Free to Serve" and is the author of Politics and Piety (Pickwick).