In this series, I’m asking the question, “What should believers do when they discover that another believer has committed sin?” In this final installment, I want to look at a few attitudes that are necessary for us to deal with sin in a biblical and godly manner. I do not suggest that this list is exhaustive. However, I do believe that these attitudes are extremely important for dealing with any kind of sin.
1. Love – We must approach someone who is actively sinning in an attitude of love. Sin fractures relationships – both relationship with God and relationships with others -, and we should desire to reconcile those broken relationships. Thus, approaching someone with the purpose of exposing their sin is not the proper motivation. A desire to show that a person is not as good as people think is not the proper motivation. A desire to get rid of a leader that we do not like is not a good motivation. We should only approach someone who is sinning out of love.
2. Humility – The attitude of humility begins by recognizing our own sinfulness and our tendency to yield to temptation. Thus, Paul’s warns the Galatians that those who are restoring someone caught in a sin should do so while watching out for themselves. This attitude of humility will also tend to dispel any thoughts of self-righteousness, as we recognize that the grace of God is the only reason that we are not caught in the same sin.
3. Understanding – Love and humility – that is, care for the other person and a recognition of our own sinful tendencies – will lead to an attitude of understanding instead of an attitude of condemnation. It is possible to both welcome and accept a brother or sister caught in sin without condoning sin itself. God does this for us.
4. Forgiveness – Forgiveness is very important, but we often overlook forgiveness, or we wave our hand at it as if forgiveness is not necessary. Forgiveness is necessary and it should be spoken to the individual. Let them know that we forgive them as God forgives them.
I would like to add one final thought about sin and the church. We must make the distinction between sin – that is, disobedience to God – and cultural taboos. Every action that we dislike is not sin. If we do not make this distinction, then we are setting our own opinions of attitudes and behaviors on the same level as God’s. To mention two examples, neither drinking alcoholic beverages nor smoking cigarettes are sin. The behaviors may be unwise. They may be unhealthy. They may be dangerous. They may demonstrate other sins such as addiction or drunkenness. But, the activities themselves are not sin, even though they are not accepted in certain cultures.
Sin is devastating. Sin is pervasive. Sin is unnecessary. We can walk in the Spirit and not sin. However, when a brother or sister sins, the church – other believers – must deal with this sin in a godly manner. Let’s not find ourselves sinning in our actions and attitudes when we are trying to help another brother and sister who is sinning.