What do you do when you find out someone has been involved in a gross and far-reaching sin? Does it depend on what the sin was, how deeply they have hurt others, and who the person is?
Sure, some sin is more public, more damaging, and has more consequences than others. But in reality, sin is sin and separates us from God. It’s a good thing Jesus died for our sin and His truth can set us free. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus forgives us from our sin and His grace covers the darkest of transgressions. That doesn’t always remove the earthly consequences from sin but it sure frees us in Christ to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Should we be surprised when people sin? No, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But just because all have sinned doesn’t mean all should continue in sin (Romans 6:1, 15). Those in Christ should run from sin, not toward it.
For my own life, I’ve found the best way to run from sin is to run toward Christ. He always provides a way of escape from sin when temptation comes (1 Corinthians 10:13). But when you are caught in sin, should you be cast away, shamed, and left to overcome alone? Absolutely not.
How should Christians respond to those in sin? If they are not believers we should lovingly show them the Gospel and how it transforms lives by using our testimony of how Jesus changed us and the truth of Scripture. We shouldn’t shame those not of Christ for not living for Christ.
We should extend God’s grace, love, and forgiveness to show them Jesus is the way, truth, and the life (John 14:6). If they are Christians caught in sin but haven’t confessed it or if it is public we should approach them kindly and help turn them from sin.
James 5:20 says, “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.” It is right to lovingly confront someone in sin for the purpose of restoration - not condemnation and judgment. Jesus came to save, not to condemn (John 3:17), the Holy Spirit is the convictor of sin (John 16:8), and those in Christ don’t have to walk in shame but freedom (Romans 8:1-2). The Spirit sets us free from sin and death.
Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
What is the “law of Christ”? It is “love the Lord with all of you heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).
It says we are to help restore them not condemn them. How are we to restore? With gentleness remembering that it could be you caught in that sin. How would you want others to treat you if it was you in that person’s sin? Jesus was never soft on sin and neither should we be.
What did He do with sin? He defeated sin - its power, penalty, and persuasion - and we should point people to that hope found only in Him. It’s hard to cast stones at someone when you are standing next to them loving them through sin.
Stephen Harrison is the senior pastor of Family Church at White Hall.
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