How should a Christian correct another believer?

By Lesley Mitchell

The Christian thing to do is to gently and kindly bring the matter to the attention of the person who has been acting in an unchristian manner. It's possible they don't even realise they've done anything wrong and have no idea you have cause for concern. That's why it's important to be discrete and have a quiet word with them. They may be upset to realise their conduct is unbecoming, and want to take immediate action to put things right. The Christian thing to do is to assume the best of your brother or sister in Christ and give them an opportunity to explain their actions or words. Often, such issues can be resolved swiftly, peaceably and without any damage. When we give people a chance to put things right, that's usually what they want to do, once they realise where we're coming from. Communication is the key to resolving differences.

The model for this is contained in Matthew 18:15-20. Although Jesus is giving advice on how to deal with a brother (or a sister) who has sinned against you, and forgiveness and repentance is required, it still works for less serious situations. It can be applied to any situation where another believer needs to be corrected:
If your brother sins against you go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that "every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth (or lock or forbid) will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth (or open or permit) will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in Heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
In the first instance, brotherly love requires us to go privately and point out the offense. If the situation escalates and becomes serious enough to involve the church leaders, the matter must be brought before others in the church to prevented slanderous, unsubstantiated accusations from being presented to the congregation. Church discipline can result in exclusion of the unrepentant brother and it is therefore no light matter to bring an accusation against a fellow believer. Jesus' words in verses 18-20 provide the basis for a process of discipline and restoration in the community of believers.

We must also be swift to forgive: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times! (or seventy times seven)'" (Matthew 18:21-22). Our willingness to forgive should be like God's forgiving grace, limitless and free. Those who do not forgive in this way cannot themselves have experienced God's forgiveness.

Christians should take this advice to heart when dealing with difficult situations within the congregation:
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13
Paul reminded Titus that: one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7
If we prayerfully come before God before speaking to our brother or sister in Christ, then we allow the Holy Spirit to move us to places of reconciliation, forgiveness and harmony.

Image Credit: Don Harder; "Thoughtful conversation"; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  | Personal-Relationships

comments powered by Disqus
Published on 8-31-2015