“If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.” 5:16-17
What a humble response to other people’s sin. The Bible is clear about how to respond to unconfessed, severe sin. This is not advice for that.
One of the best pieces of marital advice I received came just a few months after I walked down the aisle. I wasn’t seeking it out, but was instead listening to a friend share about her husband’s obnoxious behavior. Another friend piped in, that whenever she had a complaint about her husband, she just prayed about it. I thought that was dumb. Why not deliver my fantastic, godly advice first hand?
Because. My husband is a Christian, hosts the Holy Spirit and hears from God as well. He doesn’t need his wife constantly tapping on his shoulder and addressing his failures. (Again, this pertains to non-life threatening behavior. Do not sit on your hands if there is something severe going on.)
Obviously, this doesn’t just apply to marriage. My husband is just who I happen to be around the most, and whose life I look into constantly. (Therefore I am an expert on thinking I should correct him, sigh.) Have a roommate? A coworker, family member, close friend, partner in ministry, etc etc etc? It is so easy to spot someone else’s sin. Here’s a good response:
1. Why does this sin bother you so much? The weaknesses I easily notice in others are often weaknesses I have as well. This is common. First exam your own heart before inspecting someone else. (Matthew 7:3)
2. Give grace. Remember that we all have sin patterns, and are in process of becoming more like Jesus. Some people are further along in their process than others. Something that helps me when I’m being prideful and impatient with someone’s failures is remembering how far I’ve come in my own journey.
3. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit. Pray for them! We are not at war with each other, but we are in a spiritual war against Evil (Ephesians 6:12). Prayer is getting in on the battle without nagging and discouraging them. It’s showing love instead of heaping on shame. Is this person a Christian? Then they also hear from God. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can convict and change hearts. You are not in charge of that. Let go of the control.