Your spouse, your child, your parent, a close friend is bent on destroying themselves. Oh, they probably don’t see it that way, but you do. They keep on doing something you know will cause them pain – in this life, and possibly eternally. They’re sinning, and it hurts you to see it more than it hurts them – at least for now.
Some have taken Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1 out of context: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Jesus is talking here about the heart. Only God knows what is going on in your loved one’s mind and soul, what hurts they may be trying to ease or what needs they may be trying to fill. But you and I can see behavior, and we can often see what continuing that behavior will lead to.
There’s a big difference between saying to someone, “You’re sinning, you’re evil, and you’re going to hell,” and saying, “I care about you too much to let you continue destroying yourself. There is a better way!” Jesus also said that there is a time to confront your brother when he sins. (See Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:3) That’s certainly not politically correct, but it may be something you have to deal with.
Those around Jesus knew that absolutely no sin would be tolerated, but they also knew that they did not have to clean themselves up before coming to Him. Jesus’ only requirement was that those who followed Him do just that – follow Him. That meant listening, obeying, being transformed in His presence. No one was too bad, too religious, too sick, too poor, too rich, or too anything as long as they were willing to follow.
When someone you care about keeps on sinning, it may be that God has put you in their life – in part – to help them find a better way. Your own continuing transformation into Christ’s likeness must come first, but there will be times God does call on you to say something. Some of us are only too eager to point out other’s sins in a way that only drives them farther from God. But many more of us are too reluctant to confront our fellow believers in the way Jesus asked us too.
If your loved one keeps on sinning, here are three questions to ask yourself before speaking to them.
1. What is the status of your own heart before God?
None of us are without sin. You don’t have to be perfect before God can use you to help a fellow traveler in their spiritual journey. But it’s important to look at your own motivation. Are you refusing to confront because of your own fear? Are you anxious to confront because you believe you’re better than they are? Have you laid your own heart bare before God for Him to transform in any way He desires?
You may have sinned in the same way your loved one is; that may be why you’re as sensitive to the situation as you are. That does not disqualify you from intervening! One of the most effective messages may be, “I’ve struggled there too. I know how hard it can be to change. But I’ve experienced the pain of not changing, and I don’t want you to have to experience that. Let me help you do something different.”
2. What is your level of influence with them?
If you’re the parent of a child still at home you have more influence than you think. Even if your child is a teen acting rebelliously, they are still looking – perhaps unconsciously – for a parent’s guidance along with your love. If your spouse is behaving badly you also have more influence than you realize. It takes two to dance. That does not mean you are responsible for their bad behavior, but it means that if you change the way you interact with them they may be more inclined to do things differently.
Someone you only know as an acquaintance or colleague may not hear any words you say until you have demonstrated over time that you know, understand, and care about them. Until then, they may only “hear” your life – how you act with kindness, integrity, maturity, authenticity, courage, etc.
Your level of influence with someone does not absolve you from your responsibility to intervene if God lays that person on your heart. It just means you are more likely to be effective by being aware of the realities of your relationship with them and taking those into account.
3. How will they hear you best?
Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Remember, in speaking to them your goal is not to hear your own voice or to make yourself look good; your goal is to help open their heart to the Holy Spirit’s voice. YOU cannot change them! That’s not within your power to do, and it’s not your job. It’s God’s job to change them.
If after prayer you’re confident that God desires you to speak to your loved one, choose the time and place when they are most likely to hear you. It’s not about your comfort; it’s about their ability to hear. Determine to listen as much or more than you speak. Try to listen for the hurts they are trying to ease or the needs they are trying to fill.
Will you do it perfectly? Almost certainly not. That’s not the point. Should you do it every time you see someone do something wrong? NO! But there are times when God has laid this loved one on your heart, and it becomes a matter of obedience to say something.
See yourself as cooperating with the Holy Spirit in bringing your loved one closer to God. You’re not Junior Holy Spirit! But you may have a very important role to play in how He works in your loved one’s life.
Your Turn: What has been your response when you see a loved one continuing to sin? How much like Jesus do you think your response has been? Leave a comment below.
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