The Sins of Others

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My friend Dave Moench and his wife Jerelyn write a column for their local community newspaper in North Dakota, in which they answers questions from members of the public. They recently received this interesting question:

“A leader in my church has a serious, personal sin that I don’t think anyone else knows about. Is it my responsibility to tell someone? Or do I keep quiet?”

Here’s their insightful answer.

When dealing with the sins of others we should never take it lightly. The motive for pursuing such a course would be to save someone from the foreboding, eternal consequences of their sin (John 3:17; Romans 6:23). Jesus gives the prescription for dealing with another’s sin. He first tells us to “take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). When we are right before God we are better able to represent Him in delicate matters like this.

In Matthew 18:15 Jesus tells the person being wronged, or in a case like yours, the only one who knows about the sin, to “go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” This approach is in keeping with the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31), not needlessly exposing a person to public shame. There may be several reasons why it would not be appropriate to go to someone alone. In this case “take one or two others along” (v. 16). The motives of those taken should be the same as those mentioned above. A caring, loving appeal will increase the chances of repentance taking place (Revelation 2:5). Then, if the person still refuses to repent, it is time to “tell it to the church,” to make one more appeal to help them see their sin (Matthew 18:17).

Cain’s question to God in Genesis 4:9, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is answered in the affirmative by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).