I have found that people are uncomfortable with being confronted in their sins. I should not be surprised, considering I don’t like to be confronted with how I am wrong. As much as I do not like to be confronted with my wrongs, I find that I greatly appreciate a friend that will stop me from sinning. I want to be stopped if my wrongs hurt others or myself. I know I need to be warned about how I may harm my relationship with God if I persist in disobedience against His word.
It is a part of the Christian message to warn people of the dangers of sin and disobedience against God’s law.
I think it is helpful to consider Jesus’ first recorded sermon in the gospel of Mark. After Jesus was baptized and experienced temptation in the wilderness, He went into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God. The good news that Jesus preached was, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus told the people to repent and believe in the gospel. Repent means to turn around. The people were going the wrong direction with their actions and faith. Jesus called upon them to turn around from their sin and to trust in the good news of the kingdom of God. The idea that Jesus is love and so would never tell me that I am doing something wrong is ludicrous. Jesus loves me. Because He loves me, He tells me to turn away from sin and trust in Him.
There is a certain tension in the word repent and Jesus’ words from Matthew 7. Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). How do we call a person to repentance and not bring judgment? One implication of these words from Jesus that others have mistakenly drawn is that Christians should not say anything negative about anyone or make declarations about rights or wrongs. I want you to continue in Matthew 7 and consider that Jesus has more to say about judgment than just those seven words. Jesus also says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). The caution of Jesus is not just about any sort of judgment but more specifically about the prideful judgment that comes without any personal self-examination.
Words of rebuke and admonishment do have a place in the Christian community. You and I need to be honest about what is sinful and harmful in the church and in our communities. The desire to see a person turn away from sin is the context for telling someone that he is sinning. In Christian community we seek with humbleness and gentleness to correct another person when his false teaching or living separates him from the body of Christ. St. Paul told the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). Jesus told His disciples that if your brother sins against you that you should go and tell him his fault (Matthew 18:15). Jesus also said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).
When I call a person to repent of his sin, I also hear these words for myself. We all must repent, turn away from sin, and trust in the good news of the kingdom. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). Our unrepentant sins can wrestle us away from living in unity. When someone is caught in sin, we should not ignore the sin or celebrate the sin. Nor do we have any need to rejoice in quarreling. We grieve that a break in our fellowship has happened, and we seek restoration in our community.
Rebuke, admonishment, and correction are a part of living in Christian community. I desire that you correct me when I sin and that you announce to me the forgiveness of Christ. So also we urge our erring brothers and sisters in Christ back into the forgiving arms of Christ.
As wounds are opened and hurt is known, we need to share that all sins are forgiven in Christ. By grace we are saved and, this is a gift from God.