I mentioned yesterday that I was reflecting on an incident between a couple people I know. (And I am not going to say what or whom, because that would only cause more drama. But this exact situation plays out WAY more often than it should.) The first was joking about something. The second felt it wasn’t a joking matter, and called him out on it privately. The first did not see the harm in what he had said, but defensively and grudgingly agreed to stop saying it. The second was not satisfied, thought that the first should have fully agreed, and apologized, and been contrite about the matter. So this second person published the conversation out to social media and publicly shamed them about it.
I was appalled. This…isn’t how we should handle things! It won’t be fruitful in the way the second person hoped – all the first person has learned is that the second person is vindictive and cannot be trusted. I did briefly (very briefly) consider contacting the second person to tell them this could have been handled more gracefully. Three things stopped me: (1) The second person has already shown how they handle people who disagree with them. (2) Neither of the people in this scenario are Christians (afaik), so there is no reason they would want to respond in a Christian manner. (3) I am not close enough with either of them to have any standing in the matter.
So how should we, as Christians, handle something like this?
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
If your Christian brother or sister is doing something decidedly un-Christian-like, and you have a relationship with them where they might listen to you, and you know they haven’t had this sin pointed out to them, THEN you might have a place in talking to them – privately – about what’s going on. Handle it in a spirit of kindness and gentleness. Aim for knowledge and restoration. Don’t get impatient. Don’t start a debate or argument about it. Don’t get so caught up in the matter that you behave poorly as well.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Instead of beating one another up about our shortcomings, we should be encouraging one another into better behavior. We should be spending enough time together that we have the opportunity to encourage one another, that we know and trust each other when something like this comes up.
And when a transgression is pointed out to us, we shouldn’t be defensive. (That is HARD folks!) Instead, we should take a moment alone with God to ask Him how to respond. And if we are sinning, we should not continue in our sin, and we should be grateful for the love of our fellow Christian who cared enough to call us into repentance and restoration.