As Bible-believing Christians, we certainly have a responsibility to confront sin in our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as in our culture at large. In no way do I want my readers to infer by today’s essay that I’ve done a 180 regarding this matter. Biblical discernment often requires taking a visible stand against ideas and people that contradict sound doctrine.
Furthermore, discernment necessitates making judgments based on the Word of God. So yes, there’s an appropriate time and place for judging sin within the Body of Christ (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). In our exercise of discernment, however, that same Word of God commends us to confront sin in an attitude of humility and reverent fear.
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 too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. ~~Galatians 6:1-3 (ESV)
This passage encourages us to address sin in fellow believers. But I want you to particularly notice the emphasis on then admitting our own vulnerabilities to the very sins we call out in others.
Sometimes, we can think we’re pretty hot stuff. We see the ways that other professing Christians dishonor the Lord, and we know all the Scriptures to use in urging them to repent. But we forget that we also cave into temptation — many times the same temptation that we just corrected in that other person. When that happens, the person we corrected has every right to judge our hypocrisy.
Of course I’m not saying that we have to be perfect in order to confront sin in others. Actually, I’m saying something almost opposite. In correcting someone, we must be aware of our own propensity to sin. Therefore we must approach the issue knowing that we also need God’s grace as we aspire to live in obedience and holiness. The same Lord Who demands holiness in others also demands holiness in us.
This responsibility particularly weighs on those who teach. The Lord’s half-brother James points this principle out in his epistle:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. ~~James 3:1 (ESV)
As a blogger (and perhaps even a discernment blogger), I tremble a bit at passages like Galatians 6:1-3 and James 3:1. Bloggers, in essence, serve as role-models to our readers, even if we blog simply for the purpose of thinking out loud. The act of blogging automatically transforms us into teachers. So when I write posts instructing my readers towards holy living and obedience to God’s Word, the Lord holds me responsible to live consistently with my writing.
Please understand, therefore, that I write with a profound sense of responsibility to align my thoughts, attitudes and behaviors with the Biblical principles that I set before you each time I blog. If I address a sin in others or advocate personal holiness in a specific area, rest assured that my husband and the leadership of my church watch me carefully. More importantly, the Lord watches. I write with the understanding that I can be tempted.
May all of us cultivate that type of understanding and keep watch on ourselves.