Four Principles For Addressing Another's Sin

A few years ago I saw an episode of American Restoration. It was a reality TV show about Rick Dale and his restoration business. Someone had brought an antique to him that was a rarity and in need of substantial repair. I was surprised when I did not see Rick's typical confident assurance. First, he was amazed at the workmanship. He was stunned by the intricate details that still remained. Then he says, “Guys I am nervous. If I break one thing, we are not going to be able to find another. Any mistake I make would devalue this piece.” 

In Galatians 6:1-14 Paul offers some instructions on Christians restoring other Christians when they have been caught in sin and failure. Here are four gospel-centered principles for relational restoration.

  1. Be certain the sin has occured. Paul first tells us that we should address the issue when they are “caught”. We may suspect, we may have good reason, but Paul is instructing us to be certain that a harm, or sin, has been committed. That does not mean you cannot address an issue without 100% certainty. In that scenario you should come with more questions than statements.
  2. Test your heart. “You who are spiritual…” From what heart do you intend to address this person? One sign that you are in the right mind to address the sin in another person is that you have gentleness in your heart. Loving confrontation should be done with gentleness, kindness, patience, and love. It should never take place in rage, malice, envy, revenge, or bitterness. Paul also makes some additional comments about our own hearts in verse 3. Paul is reminding us that we are all broken, sinful people in need of grace. WE should not approach another from a position of being "better than," but rather come alongside as a fellow recipient of God's restoring grace. 
  3. Burdens and Loads. In verse 2 and verse 5 we have a helpful insight. Paul uses two metaphors to help us delineate relational boundaries. We should carry one another’s burdens, but we are responsible for our own load. The restoration of the person may include both individual and shared responsibility. We should never take it upon ourselves to change a person, nor should we challenge someone and simply walk away. The commitment of love invites us to initiate change and walk alongside on the journey towards restoration.
  4. Assurance: There is one assurance found in this passage that provides the grounds for gentle restoration. In verse. 2 Paul reminds us that in confronting those who matter to us, we do so in order to “fulfill the law of Christ.”  We love because Christ first loved us. We forgive because Christ first forgave us. We comfort because Christ first comforted us. The best news in this passage is that Jesus Christ desires to use people like you and me to fulfill his promise of never forsaking the good work he began and intends to complete (Philippians 1:6).

Dan Allender summarizes Paul’s words well, “Bold love is courageously setting aside our personal agenda to move humbly into the world of others with their well being in view, wiling to risk further pain in our souls, in order to be an aroma of life to some and an aroma of death to others.”