Brethren, even if someone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NASBu)
If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death… (1 John 5:16 ASV)
One key characteristic of those who have truly met God is that they love the people of God. John said that, “We know we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren…and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren…” (1 John 3:14,16)
Sometimes love requires us to confront others who are caught in a pattern of sin. We often fail to realize that this is one way Jesus “laid down His life” for us. The Cross is not just a revelation of mercy. It is God exposing sin in all it’s wickedness. When God confronts sin He is inclined toward mercy and desires restoration. We see this in Christ’s attitude and words from the Cross: “Father, forgive them…” How different this is than the self-righteous criticism of a fault-finder!
Paul tells us that spiritually mature people have a responsibility to gently confront those caught in patterns of sin in hopes of restoring them to right-standing with God and His people. John tells us that when we see other believers caught in sin that we should take up the task of intercession for them.
I find an amazing promise in John’s command to pray for those who are caught in sin. Did you see it in the second verse above? John says that when someone prays for those caught in sin that “God will give him life for them…” I have experienced this on many occasions. So much so that I typically assume it is not God’s leading to confront someone until I have been given life for them; that is, until I have experienced something of the Lord’s love and power toward them. This comes only by prayer. The Holy Spirit will impart grace to you so that you know what to do. He will give you His heart for that person and His wisdom for that person. Only then do you truly know how to proceed.
One time a person spoke up during a church service and said something that was clearly not in keeping with the heart of God. It was more the tone than the content that was off. It felt out of order and seemed to place a damper on the meeting at that point. It was obvious to me that the person spoke out of a rebellious heart and needed correction. But the Lord would not let me do so at that point. He seemed to say, “Wait.” So I continued to pray for that person, asking God to do a good work there.
A number of months later I had become a much closer friend to this family and they considered me their “pastor” by this point. One evening at their dinner table this person began to express brokenness before the Lord and said, “Dane, my life seems so out of step with the Lord and I am unhappy. If the Lord ever shows you something about me that needs addressing, you will tell me, won’t you?”
What happened next can only be blamed on God. There was a spontaneous flood of grace from within my heart toward that person. I suddenly remembered the problem that had occurred almost a year earlier. It was obvious that this sin was an ingrained pattern in this person. I was able to gently but directly address the issue that evening after dinner. There was sweet grace all around and this person repented and prayed to God and experienced real restoration and refreshing from God. This kind of result cannot happen without God’s Spirit being in full control.
Sadly, ministry does not always have such a happy ending. John tells us that there is a “sin unto death” and that we are not to pray about this. Sometimes people have hardened their hearts and will not receive correction. They will not humble themselves. They will not admit their sin. God does not restore unrepentant people to Himself.
So let us purpose to be believers that faithfully pray for others, desiring to see them draw nearer to the Lord, being even willing to confront should the Lord lead. But let us also be willing to accept correction from those who love us enough to confront us with the truth. Amen.