"My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins"
The Bible tells us that pointing out the sins of others isn't really a bad thing.. When we see sin, we should confront it. But how we confront it is important..
Francis Chan wrote a book called "Remembering a Forgotten God".. Along with the book he wrote a workbook and filmed a set of dvd's for small groups. In lesson four he encourages the groups to go around the table, and in an honest yet loving way, tell each other what sin they see in their lives.. That does sound like a scary thing, and I would assume that it would take a pretty strong person to take the criticism in a productive way.. To hear others point out their sin and be genuinely thankful for it.. I think it would also take a very brave person to face someone and say "I believe that your behavior is sinful, and this is why"..
I have had people close to me point out something in my life (a particular behavior or view) that was sinful and though I didn't like hearing it, I was grateful for it because it enabled me to take a look at my behavior, pray about it, and repent of it.. Usually I was not aware of this behavior and if I was, I didn't think it important enough to change it.. But when someone tells you that the way you are behaving is un-biblical and/or offensive to God, naturally you would want to make a change..
Sadly, most of the time when we are pointing out the sins of others, it's not the sinner we are pointing it out to.. Instead we point out the sins of a particular person to everyone but the one we are referring to.. When that happens, it's no longer pointing out sin, it's gossiping..
Several months ago I was standing in the fellowship hall before the church service getting myself some coffee.. There were a lot of people standing around, drinking coffee, talking to friends while waiting for the service to start.. A woman walked in wearing a very short skirt and a low cut blouse.. I didn't recognize her, so I assumed that she was visiting.. It didn't take long for people to notice her.. She wasn't walking in a seductive way, she wasn't flirting with the men, she didn't stop to talk to anyone.. I actually think she was looking for the restroom.. But before she made it half way through the room I saw a few of the groups of people move closer together and start whispering, occasionally looking over their shoulder at her. Some even pointed..
*I need to interject right here and say how grateful I am that I was by myself.. Had I been with a group of friends, I am ashamed to admit that I would have probably been whispering about her myself..*
As I walked through the room I could hear some of the people talking about her:
"I can't believe she would walk into a church like that!"
"Someone should tell her that her clothes are not appropriate here."
"She has some nerve carrying a Bible and looking like that!"
"I would never go anywhere dressed that way!"
But no one approached her. At the end of the service I watched her leave.. No one said anything to her, not even hello. As she maneuvered through the crowd to the doors, people made it a point not to make eye contact with her, but after she had walked past them, they turned their heads to watch her leave..
For a moment I wanted to catch up with her and introduce myself.. I wanted to say something to her, though I really don't know what I would have said. But I chickened out.. I just stood there and watched her leave.. I should have spoken to her.. I wish I had. I haven't seen her at my church since.. Maybe if I had been friendly to her, if I had introduced myself, commented on her fabulous shoes.. If I had just said something, maybe she would have come back.. Maybe I would have gotten to know her, I could have made a new friend and she could have found a new church home..
I thought about her later and it occurred to me that no one (including me) stopped to think about why she was dressed the way she was, where she came from, how she grew up, what she has gone through in her life.. It upset me that our first reaction was to judge her and think the worst of her..
I wish I could say that I have learned my lesson and that I don't ever judge someone the moment I look at them.. I wish I could say that I am empathetic and always try to put myself in their shoes before pointing out what I think is their sin to other people.. I wish I could honestly say that when I see sin in others, that I am always brave enough to confront them in a loving and Biblical way instead of pointing them out to someone else..
But I can't.. I can say that I am learning this lesson, I can say that I try to remind myself to really think about what to say, why I say it, and to whom I say it to.. I can say that it is a process.. I can say that it is not impossible, for any of us..
I can do better..