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Thursday, May 21, 2009

How Do You Confront A Christian Brother or Sister about His or Her Sin?

We are all sinners. We should not believe that anyone is better than another. Yet, there are times when a continuing sin is destroying the fellowship a Christian has with the Lord. Other Christians have a responsibility to confront their Christian brothers and sisters when they are seen walking in sin away from the Lord.

There are no church police. There should be no group that make it their job to search out the sinners who need confrontation. It is the responsibility of each Christian if he or she can meet some qualifications.

First, do you love the person you are going to confront? The person confronting must have an attitude of redeeming the sinner rather than merely showing him that he is wrong. It is not about saying you know what is going on. It is imperative that the motivation is bringing the sinner back into the fellowship. Otherwise, it has no purpose.

The closest friend who is willing to confront the one in sin should be the one who confront him. This friend should ask the person in sin privately if the sin is true unless the friend has personally observed the person committing the sin. Sometimes reports are merely suspicions and the friend needs to go back to the one making the accusation and tell them it is not true and to stop making the accusations. For example, Mike sees Bill pulling away from a bar a couple of times a week. Mike knows the John is Bill's friend and tells him he thinks that Bill is drinking a lot. John asks Mike if he has been drinking a lot since he has been seen leaving the bar a couple of nights a week. Mike says that he has been helping the bartender's son pass his GED and was meeting him there for tutoring purposes. John then goes back to Mike and tells him that things are really okay and to go back to anyone he has said he suspected Bill has been drinking a lot and straighten things out.

However, the danger in this method is when the one being confronted denies the sin when he was really committing it. It tears down any trust that the friends once had when the sin is finally revealed. Trust is the basis of any good relationship. The relationship must be rebuilt. It cannot be rebuilt as long as one of the two continues to lie.

Second, are you willing to do what is necessary to show the one sinning how egregious their sin is? Let's say that the one committing the sin admits he is doing it. He says that he is going to continue to do so whether his friend likes it or not. Then, the friend will get one or two other believers to go with him to confront the one sinning again. This accomplishes a requirement of Scripture of two or three witnesses necessary to bring about a conviction. These should be very respected people in the church. They should have a reputation for spiritual decisions. They may tell the one confronting that he is being too picky about his confrontation and should look at the log in his own eye before confronting another. More than likely though, they will go with this friend to confront the one who is in sin.

Fellowship should be withdrawn if the one who continues in sin rejects his friend and the one or two he has brought with them. This is a formal separation of the position the one sinning has already made. He has already separated himself from his friends by his sin. The friends should no longer have fellowship but should tell the one sinning they will always be there if the one sinning would like to come home. This tells the one sinning that sin is serious but grace is available. But grace cannot be given while a person remains committed to the sin.

Sometimes there are serious consequences to sin that linger well beyond the time that the sin was committed. Many years ago I was in a church where a family with middle school age children began to visit. They seemed like a great family for our church. One of our members came to the pastor and told him that he couldn't worship while the father in this family was in our the church. The member said that this man had an affair with his wife. After confronting the visitor we discovered that he had affairs in other churches and had been asked to leave them. We told him he must apologize to these other congregations before he could attend our church. He told us he was unwilling to do so. What would keep him from doing the same thing in our church if he was unrepentant about what he had done in other churches? His continued affairs also pointed to an unrepentant heart. Church was just a good place for him to hunt for unsuspecting women. We asked him not to attend our church until he was willing to make things right. We never saw him again.

Please make sure you understand that confronting a friend in sin does not always turn out like you would like. In fact, I have some experiences where it didn't come out well at all. But, how can we say that we are loving when we will allow our friends to hurt themselves and others around us?



Ann said...

What if this christian brother is your blood brother and is living with a christian woman? I have already talked to both in love. But nothing has changed.

Prentis said...

As far as you know nothing has changed. God is doing a work with what you have already said. It doesn't appear to have changed on the surface but I suspect there is something deeper going on if both of these people are Christians. They are losing their fellowship with the Lord. Eventually they will notice the hole they have placed in their lives and realize that they can't fill it in with each other.
Keep praying and have faith. God is not finished yet. said...

I am dealing with a very close friend who is leaving her husband. To tell you the whole story would take forever, but she's had a wondering eye since before the wedding day. I confronted her initially in a loving way but the conversation got heated. She immediately started pointing out my sins and said I wasn't being a good friend by not supporting her. She is seeing a secular counselor who is making it all about her of course and her happiness. She proclaims to be Christian, very Christian. Anywho, I would really appreciate the scripture the supports your direction on the Biblicial perspective on the duty of confronting our Christian friends as well as leaving them until they repent. I believe I made the presumption since she seemed as committed as myself that her faith was equal as well as her scriptural knowledge, which obviously isn't. Thank you so much, Cathy

Prentis said...

There are several scriptures. 1 Corinthians 5:12 tells us that we have a responsibility to judge those inside the church. These are believers. We are not to judge those on the outside. Matthew 7:2-5 gives us the part of the procedure for confronting a Christian brother. We must get the logs our of our own eyes first. Galatians 6:1 tells us to restore others with a spirit of gentleness. You can't really restore anyone who doesn't know they need restoring. We have a responsibility to keep each other or track. By the way 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 admonishes believers to stay with their spouses. This does not mean that the spouse can be made to stay but that the believer is bound to the spouse as long as he or she will stay. There are lots more scriptures to support confronting other believers in their sins. The whole thing must be done with the heart of one who loves them and with the purpose of restoring them to Christian fellowship. I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

My father passed away a few years ago and my mother has been dating a married man for over a year....She chooses to spend time with this man who returns home to his wife vs spending time with her family or grandchildren. She is becoming less involved with church and does not care that this relationship is affecting those around her...While I know she needs to be happy-----I am heart broken it comes at the cost of family closeness and with a married man----we grew up with such strong faith and living for God....I am really having a very difficult time knowing what to say...what not to say......and I am wanting to ask his wife if she is aware?? my only sister and I have debated to contact or see his wife to ask...we have asked him about things and he says his wife cheated on him and he does not love her....but yet she lives in his house....and they are not legally separated...It just doesnt add up.....What to do???

Anonymous said...

Found this article to be very helpful in the given situation that I'm in. One of my best friends is at a different college then me and has turned to heavy drinking and partying. She calls me when she is drunk and it upsets me a lot. Sometimes I see pictures of her on Facebook and I can't believe my eyes. She lead a moral and genuine Christ centered life prior to going to college. I need to confront her and try to hold her accountable, but I already have the feeling that she will reject what I say. Even if she listens, I doubt she will change, but rather get upset. This is because she seems very set in her new ways (all her college friends partake in this sinful behavior too.) What should I do/say? And if she doesn't listen, do I really have to cut off all communication with her? Thanks in advance for the advice.

Prentis said...

Your friend is typical of many who have lived a Christian life before going to college and a life of sinfulness during college. She was taken from her relatively safe environment, Christian friends and Christian reputation to enter an unsure environment with secular friends who do not know anything about her Christian reputation.
Here is the question you must ask yourself: Do I care enough about her to rescue her from herself? The question isn't whether or not she will reject what you say. The question is a matter of love. You are not correcting her because you want to see her act correctly. You are correcting her because you care. This may result in her acting like a Christian. It may be that she will give you those old cliche's that we know. "You're not perfect either! Who are you to tell me how to live my life? It's my life and I've chosen how I want to live it!" The Bible says that the Prodigal Son "came to his senses." You want her to come to her senses. This may not happen until she realizes that her current lifestyle is meaningless and causing her pain.
While you will not be able to truly have fellowship with her, let her know that she can always come home. Let her know that you will be a friend in waiting. You are hoping to see her return to her faith. Make sure that she knows you care about her anyway- even if she doesn't clean up her act.
Please address her lifestyle in person. Do not do this with email, FB, twitter or the phone. You need to see her alone. Maybe you could plan to get with her when she comes home from college. She may want to avoid you since she knows you know how she has been living. Plan something that she liked to do before she went to college.
Remember that you have the same love for her that God has for you. He came to get you while you were a sinner too. Pray that He will give you the right words to say and the right environment to say them. God not only hurts when we hurt; He hurts when we hurt ourselves too. That's the love of God.

Elizabeth said...

Is this something I handle when I am not "close" to this person? Our relationship as friends has been growing lately.

She's a typical single mom of 3 so she's already very stressed, and has other issues to worry over. But she has a live-in boyfriend... If anything it seems to be making her feel more stable... I babysit for her... do I bother this or just pray?

Prentis said...

My suggestion is that you look for a Christian who is close to her. Otherwise, you must earn the right to talk to her about it. That means you must establish a level of trust which allows her to know that you are speaking out of love for her. That's hard to do as an acquaintance. Most of the time Christians blast those whom they do not know for their sins. Jesus, Himself, confronted those who condemned people for their sins rather than loved them. We want to act in love. It takes someone who has proven that she cares to speak that type of love.

Anonymous said...

i have a friend who is in a relationship with a young lady who is suppose to be saved but is completely living a different life. I know this for a fact because I have talked with her. How do I tell my friend that the relationship he is in isn't of God. I don't want to sound jealous or envious. But I do care about him.

kefy1231 said...

I am having such a hard time with this. I don't know what to do or how to confront this situation at all because I know her previous reactions to people confronting her. I am a leader at church and we have a moral code that we abide by if we are wanting to serve as volunteer in church. I just moved in with a girl from church who needed some roommates to ell her out financially with a house she had gotten with her now ex-boyfriend. She had been confronted by other leaders about living with her boyfriend before marriage and she completely closed off, stopped talking to a lot of people and stopped serving at church. Now, after not long of being single, she has been dating a very nice guy. She started serving again and talked to leaders of the ministry she was serving in, including me, about how she was really going to try glorify God in her relationships and not have sex out of marriage again and not live with a boyfriend. Then I decided personally to move in with her for various reasons but one in particular. Because I dont want to stay the night with my fiancée anymore because we are trying to glorify God in our relationship. I discussed this with her. She seemed to agree because she was talking about how things didn't work out with her ex because of them living together! Well ever since I have been living here, Her new boyfriend has stayed over almost every night and in the same bed. And she's a leader at church. And I am too. And I'm witnessing them live in sin. I am not perfect by any means. But she is not being honest about it with anyone. And I don't know how to confront her. We don't have a very established friendship. But not only do I know that it's wrong and that she completely denies him being over here to everyone else, I am extremely uncomfortable living here now because I didn't sign up to be living with another male when I was trying to not live with my own fiancée in the first place. And it's gone on for a bit now. Ive lived here for a few months and I don't want her to think that I approve because I absolutely don't and I don't want other people to think that I condone this sort of behavior. I want to establish roommate rules, but don't know how to pitch the idea to her. It's beyond frustrating. I'm sorry this is so long. It is something that I'm deeply troubled by.

Prentis said...

Pray fervently before you confront her. Please let her know that the reason you are confronting her is because you love her. Let love prevail as your motivation and let it invade everything you say and think as you speak with her.
Love requires that you speak with her.

Anonymous said...

I have a sister who had been a believer since she was a child and has remained a virgin waiting for the man God had for her. However,a few months ago she met a man that seemingly came out of nowhere, swept her off her feet, and they have been living together for a few months now. This is completely opposite anything she would have ever done. Her boyfriend tries to keep her from coming around the rest of her family and the boyfriend has also lied to my parents multiple times. My mom and I as her sister have each lovingly confronted her and she says it is her life to live and we are not her judge. we have pleaded with tears that we are coming out of love and longing for her to cling to the Lord's love and truth. But, this seems to not have phased her. she has a couple of close Christian friends that have no idea they are living together and are encouraging her relationship with the boyfriend because they think her is a "nice guy." My question is, do I approach one of her Christian friends and lovingly tell them the truth to see if they in turn would reach out to my sister and speak truth?