Scripture: 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. Galatians 5:1 ESV
Observation: In his closing remarks of chapter 6, Paul provides a punchout list of how to walk in step with the Holy Spirit loving others as ourselves (chapter 5). This first verse addresses an essential element of loving others: accountability. Paul understood well the gravity of unrepentant sin. It is a loving act to help others see where their decisions and actions oppose God’s will. Paul, however, reminds the Galatians to focus on restoration, utilizing gentle correction.
Takeaway: It is unthinkable to allow others who profess the faith to intentionally or unintentionally carry on living in a way that distances them from their Creator and places them at risk of eternal separation. Yet, we often shy away from holding others accountable. Why? Because it can backfire on us. Seldom do those “caught in any transgression” appreciate having their sins exposed. Almost always, there is pushback. The other person will accuse us of being “high and mighty” or “judgmental.”
So what is the best way to approach a fellow believer to address their unrepentant sin? With “a spirit of gentleness.” And how do we communicate with a spirit of gentle correction? It starts with prayer. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us see the other person through God’s eyes and show us how we too struggle with sin. And we keep praying as such until our hearts are humble and compassionate toward the other person. And we ask a trusted friend or two who will uphold confidentiality to join us in prayer, particularly for the designated time to meet with the one who needs to be held accountable. Then only should we approach our brother or sister in Christ and express our love and concern for them while perhaps self-disclosing our struggles with sin (if relevant to the situation).
Is it foolproof? No, but if the other person genuinely seeks to grow in their faith, they will be grateful that you risked the relationship to call them out—maybe not immediately, but in due time. More importantly, our Father will be pleased.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for those who have held us accountable regarding our unrepentant sins. Would you please help us follow the lead of your Holy Spirit and exercise humility and compassion toward others who transgress against you and speak words of gentle correction that bring life? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling