Call sinners out in private

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This is for my Christian brothers and sisters. I’m talking exclusively to those who claim saving faith through the name of Jesus.

Do you know how we say, “You can’t judge me”? Yes. I hear it very often from young people. Actually, they say, “Only God can judge me.” But they are really meaning “You can’t judge me!” And they mean it with a very strong emphasis on the “you.”

I agree. God is judge. Amen. Praise him who is love and whose justice is perfect! Praise him, the judge who is full of mercy, but also perfect in judgment. Thank you, father!

So, we agree, right? God is judge. Amen.

Check out what Jesus says: “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4 ESV)

We are called to live in community with one another, and we are called to take care of each other. Part of taking care of each other is not looking over sin, pretending it’s not an issue, glossing it over or ignoring it all together. We are called to care for each other by rebuking.

What? Rebuking? Yes.

Now, read these words carefully, and listen for the Holy Spirit to speak to your spirit: “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” (Matthew 18:15 NLT)

See that? The New Living Translation says “...go privately...” The English Standard Version says “...between you and him alone...” The New American Standard Bible says, “...show him his fault in private...” The New International Version says, “...just between the two of you...” The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, “...rebuke him in private..”

We don’t ignore sin. However, we don’t call people out in public; not on social media. C’mon, now. Let’s get with Jesus on both sides of this deal!

Let’s not ignore sin. But, let’s handle it the right way! There is a time and a place to bring some individual’s sin out in a group, but there’s a couple steps to cover before calling them out in a group. Added to that, the group you call them out in front – after the other stuff has been tried – is their local church where they can receive loving discipline and have hope of being restored. (Check out Matthew 18:15-20)

And, it’s not just an issue of not ignoring sin, nor does it only involve who we rebuke in front of whom. There’s more.

Who should rebuke someone? What is the goal of rebuking someone’s sin?

Galatians 6:1 answers it most succinctly: “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” (NLT)

Who should rebuke? “...You who are godly...” Well, who’s godly? Back up into Galatians 5:16-26; it’s the spirit-filled, fruit-bearing people who are godly. What is the goal? “... Help that person back onto the right path...” Or, as the ESV says, the goal is to “...restore...”

We are called to live in community! “Pay attention to yourselves...” This stuff matters!

Don’t ignore sin. Obey Jesus. As we obey Jesus, let’s do it the right way.

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