Dealing with sin in the lives of others

This is part three in a trilogy of posts I’ve been writing about sin. The first was about dealing with temptation. The second was about dealing with sin in your own life. This final post is about dealing with sin in the lives of others.

Two disclaimers:

  1. I will not be addressing the topic of church discipline. This is a topic that is best left to the elders of the church to define and discuss.
  2. This post deals with confronting a brother or sister in Christ about sin that is apparent in their life. People who are without Christ sin because of their unregenerate nature. If you are addressing sin in the life of a lost person it must always be in the context of their need to repent and put their faith in Christ for salvation.

When we talk about dealing with sins in the lives of others, we are talking about how to approach a brother or sister in Christ who has sinned against us in some way or that has obvious sin in their life that is not being addressed.

This should be done…

  • with an attitude of humility
  • in an atmosphere of prayer
  • filled with grace and compassion

There are several steps to take when addressing sin in the lives of others:

Step One: Weigh the offense

The first thing that needs to be considered when we have been sinned against is whether or not we should simply forgive the person or people involved, overlook the sin, and move on.

We are all guilty of being an offense to our brothers and sisters from time to time, and we need to extend grace to one another in those circumstances. Proverbs 19:11 tells us that “a man’s wisdom gives him patience and it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

Our first response to an offense from a brother or sister in Christ should be one of grace and forgiveness, because to be sure, there will come a day when we need them to return the favor.

This admonition comes with a warning however. In his book Vintage Church, Mark Driscoll writes;

We cannot simply overlook an offense if doing so is motivated by cowardice, fear of conflict, and/or lack of concern for someone and their sanctification. In the end it is the glory of God, the reputation of Jesus, the well-being of the church, and the holiness of the individual that must outweigh any personal desires for a life of ease that avoids dealing with sin biblically.

Step Two: Search your own heart

If the sin in your brother or sister’s life needs to be addressed, be sure to take time to prepare and search your own heart.

  • ask God to reveal any sin in your own life that may be the same as the sin you see in the life of your brother (Matthew 7:1-5)
  • pray for a heart of kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3)
  • Remember Paul’s admonition to the church in Galatia:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself lest you be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

Step Three: Admonish your brother or sister

Go to your brother or sister in private, ask them about what you have experienced or witnessed and if sin is indeed present then with a sincere desire to see reconciliation take place, appeal to them to repent.

In doing this, we are trusting that the Holy Spirit will do a work in their hearts to bring them to repentance because repentance is God’s work, not ours.

It’s essential that we seek to discover the truth about the situation first. We must never ascribe guilt to a person without seeking the truth. It’s always possible that we are mistaken in our assessment of the situation.

It’s unfortunate that this sort of thing does not go on very often in churches today. Many of us are far more likely to gossip and hold grudges or to simply let a brother or sister continue in sin to their own hurt or destruction.

May it not be so with us church! If we truly love God, and if we truly love one another, we must be more concerned about seeing each other become more like Christ than seeing to our own comfort.


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