The forgiveness and humility of Christ are central to his nature. However, a focus on forgiveness and humility has often led us to avoid talking about and confronting sin. The rise of moral relativism has not helped our outlook on sin, as moral standards continue to become more culturally disowned. Confrontation is often considered to be unchristian.
Done biblically though, it is the most loving thing you can do.
Throughout the process of confrontation, it is important Christians refrain from elevating ourselves and condemning others. Confronting sin is about spiritually encouraging the struggling individual and it is not a license for self-righteous thinking. Galatians 6:1 tells us to approach these situations in a spirit of gentleness; the end goal is repentance, not embarrassment.
We must examine our own sin first. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ rebukes those who fail to do this: “Hypocrite! First, remove the plank from your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus is not saying to never point out sin amongst brethren, but he is commanding us to engage in a process of repentance before we do.
If we desire to confront someone about a particular sin, it is necessary to first make sure the same sin is not a major stumbling block in our own lives. The second major thing is to make sure we do not confront sin in a vacuum, or while in a trial of our own.
Matthew 18:20, a very well-known verse in free church ecclesiology, states, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” We often use this verse to distinguish what makes a church a church, but in context, it means something different. Verses 15-20 of chapter 18 deals with a sinning brother. In verse 15, we are told to initially go to the individual alone. If we are to be truly gracious to our sinning brethren, this confrontation will not be a public ordeal. It should occur privately to avoid embarrassment and humiliation. Sit your brother down and explain their faults. Point out to them where the Bible condemns their sins and lovingly plead the case for repentance. If this does not work, that is when we call on others. With a small group of fellow believers (two or three) confront your brother again. If all of this fails, if the sinner denies his fault and does not repent, only then do you rebuke.
“As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).
Confronting sin is necessary, both within ourselves and with other believers. It is always done with a spirit of love and grace. Though we will never be free of sin before Jesus returns, we can approach holy living together, as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). We are all aiding each other in our earthly journey of sanctification. The Church is a community—not an office with cubicles in which we all work separately. This relationship is one of support, even in the midst of our worst failures.