Dealing with Someone Else's Sin
- April Motl Crosswalk.com Contributor
- 2017 14 Nov
Dealing with other people’s sin happens on a daily basis. I’m training my son to process his natural, little kid frustrations and self-focusedness in ways that hopefully lead him towards God-honoring responses. And when I’m tired at the end of the day, how I handle those moments is sometimes less than all I want to be. My own frustrations and self-centeredness bump into his. That’s the tricky part about dealing with other people’s sinful nature: it bumps into ours.
Scripture warns us about how to align our relationships with people so that we aren’t setting ourselves up for more pain than necessary. Yes, we will bump into other people's sinful natures (just as they are bumping into ours too!), but there’s wisdom for managing how deeply our heart is invested in relationships dominated by sinful attitudes. Here are five scriptural principles for handling someone else’s sin:
1. Love big, but also guard your heart.
The Bible gives us two “above all” statements that on the surface seem contradictory, but in reality they are the end caps on a big truth.
“Above all else guard your heart, because from it flows the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23)
“Above all keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Seasoned wisdom knows how to love everyone, while not allowing another person’s sin to dominate their life. Here’s a list of scriptural wisdom for relationship red flags, so you can guard your heart biblically:
Don’t hitch your heart to people who are engaged in things the Lord says He hates:
Free your life from the trap of angry people:
Do not spend time with gossipy people:
Guard your social life from people who are invested in life-style hypocrisy
“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:10).
Guard your heart from people who twist Scripture
“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds” (2 John 1:9-10).
I’ve always tried to apply the “second mile” principle to my relationships, like when Jesus spoke of going the second mile, turning the other cheek, giving your coat to anyone who asked, that sort of thing. In recent years, after repeatedly lifting my broken heart to the Lord, I felt Him lead me through those above Scriptures to find some balance and bounding to how I managed my relationships with people where the above negative traits dominated their interaction with others.
God doesn’t call us to crazy-making dynamics, and that’s where I’d gotten with a few relationships. There was never enough coats or cheeks or miles to suit them. They were professing believers, but how they treated others was defined by anger, hurtful gossip, and divisiveness for self-serving control. The thing is, I loved them! Deeply!
Most of the time people aren't walking around with “I’m going to hurt you” tattooed on their forehead. Some of the most damaging people I’ve ever known were also the most charming, fun, and lovable. The Lord knows our hearts and how tangled they can get with one another. Those verses are meant to help us have a series of red flag tests so we can invest in relationships that grow us and bless us rather than ones that harm us or other people we love.
2. Watch your own steps so you don’t stumble in the same ways and speak to them about the matter with gentleness.
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
3. Be humble and remember your own mistakes before you take too deeply to heart the mistakes of others.
“Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you. For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).
4. Remember that the Lord delights in compassion and that He is all about calling people home to His grace.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).
5. Don’t allow someone else’s sin to define you, your sense of worth, or your relationship with God.
Especially in cases of abuse, it can feel as if the ugliness of the sin enacted on you becomes you. This is not truth. Your Creator is the only One who gets to define you (see suggested resources below if you struggle to find your identity in who God says you are). Forgiveness is often the first step we need to take in order to stop someone else’s sin from defining us. (Read more on forgiveness here [http://www.motlministries.org/2016/12/the-key-to-handling-family-holiday-drama/ ])
And if you are wrestling with the pain someone caused you and you think it reflects on God (or on church in general), I say with so much love and compassion, that’s their thing, not God’s! You won't get to meet Jesus face to face and explain how His love and sacrifice just wasn’t enough for you because someone at church hurt your feelings, so you never came back, never read your Bible, or whatever. People’s sin hurts us. It hurts Jesus too! That is the sad reality of a fallen world. If we let their sin define us or derail us, then we hand the victory we were meant to have over to sin and Satan.
None of these scriptural principles are easy to live out. But the truth is what sets us free, so we must cling to Truth, the very person of Jesus Christ, in the midst of the angst and ache other’s sin causes us. I am praying for you today.
If you’re struggling to see yourself as God sees you, click here [http://www.motlministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/beautiful-cards-new.pdf ] for a free list of Bible verse cards to remind you of how God sees you and here [http://www.motlministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Who-I-Am-in-Christ.pdf] for a list of New Testament statement about who we are in Christ. Also check out the Bible study My Reflection in His Eyes: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You (https://www.amazon.com/My-Reflection-His-Eyes-Yourself/dp/0615676359/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8).
Photo credit: @Thinkstock
April Motl is a pastor’s wife, mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, being a wife, and serving at church, she writes for various Salem venues and at www.MotlMinistries.org.