He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
The idea of correcting other people who are involved in sin is completely foreign to our way of thinking today. “Everybody is responsible for their own relationship with God,” we say. “Who are we to try to correct somebody else?” Yet the Bible repeatedly talks about our responsibility to confront sinning Christians and restore them to a right relationship with God.
But when should we confront sinning Christians about their sin? Let’s look at different categories of sin that you and I run into every day and how we are to respond to each of them.
The first category of sin is personal offenses against us. In Matthew 18:21, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” Peter was saying, “If somebody sins against me personally, how am I supposed to respond?” One word: forgive. Jesus said nothing in this instance about taking two or three people with you to confront this person or turning them out of the church. In Mark 11:25, Jesus said if you are praying in the temple, and you remember that you have something against somebody, you are to forgive them right on the spot. You do not have to confront somebody about their sin to forgive them.
The second category of sin is personal sins in other people. What are we to do if we see a fellow Christian who has been overcome by anger, immorality, addiction, or something else that is destroying his life and perhaps the lives of others? We are to try to restore him. That is what James had in mind in James 5:19-20 when he said, “If any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” In this passage, there is nothing about taking this person’s sin before the church.
But there is a third category of sin that sometimes demands drastic action, and that is corporate sins against the church–sins that infect the whole body of Christ. Now, there are some people who think every sin affects the body of Christ. But do we really want to have a church business meeting about every single sin in the church? Would we want to publicly correct somebody, for example, for making too many trips to McDonald’s? Gluttony is a serious sin, but there is probably a better way to handle a bloated believer than having a public church meeting. Those things are handled better in private. But there are some sins that demand more drastic action–what I call “spiritual surgery.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good-Grace Spiritual Surgery” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2021.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org