Christians are not loners who plow through life by themselves – at least they shouldn’t go it alone! Since we believe in the fellowship of the saints, there are times when one Christian has to talk to another Christian about his or her sin. If it is done out of love, if it follows biblical patterns (e.g. Mt. 18), and if it is aimed at repentance, restoration, and spiritual growth, talking to a fellow Christian about sin is a blessing. It’s not easy and it does sometimes sting, but it is a good thing! Here is some advice from Ed Welch on talking to a fellow Christian about his or her sin. He says we need to do so with humility and patience:
Humility means that we already see our sins as worse than others’ sins, so we have no reason to defend ourselves when someone points out our sin (Mt. 7:2-5). This does not mean that we must publicly identify our own sins before we talk about sins in others. It means that we live as redeemed tax collectors (Luke 18:9-14) who have no confidence in our own righteousness but live because of God’s lavish forgiveness and grace.
Welch is exactly right. If we have any sort of arrogance or pride when we confront a brother or sister about their sin, the discussion will usually go downhill rather quickly. Have you ever had an arrogant person point out your flaws or shortcomings? It’s not easy to hear since it sounds like what it is: someone who thinks he’s better than you reminding you that you’re beneath him. Here’s Welch again:
“Patience is humility’s partner. It is one of the identified fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and it is a central feature of love (1 Cor. 13:4), so it is essential to our ability to be helpful. It means that the one we are speaking with is like us – he does not respond perfectly, he changes slowly, and he needs a patient helper. …Patience is interested in what direction people face. Do they face toward Jesus? Patience is more interested in direction and less interested in how fast people are changing.
Again, this is helpful. Sometimes iron sharpening iron (Prov. 27:17) takes more than a few days! In other words, sanctification doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes God works slowly in a person’s heart and mind, so we need to be patient with God’s timing. Granted, there are exceptions to this (if someone is physically in danger, for one example), but generally it is very wise to be patient as we talk to another Christian about his or her sin. God is patient with us, so of course, we should be patient with one another!
The above quotes are from chapter 15 of Side By Side.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)