What to Do When Your Brother is in Sin

Accusation of Sin

I write this not as a response to anything in particular that has happened to me or to anyone I know.  It is simply a reminder for us all of a very wise teaching of our Lord.

Human beings are sinners.  Sometimes we think that our sins do not affect anyone else, but this is wishful thinking.  No sin is in a vacuum and any sin you can think of is detrimental to the self, the family, the church, and society in some way.  So what do we do if we know our brother is in sin and we feel compelled to do something about it?

Jesus gives us a progression of actions to take in Matthew 18:
1) “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”

2) “If he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.”

3) “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.”

4) “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Notice that there is a certain order to these steps.

Confronting the brother or sister in private comes first.  Then take someone with you.  Then bring it before the church.  Then shake the dust from your feet and let him be separated from you.

We are not following Jesus’ instructions if we immediately bring an issue to the church without first going to the individual.  We are not following Jesus’ instructions if we count him “as a Gentile and a tax collector” without ever saying a word to him.

Jesus did not tell us to send an anonymous email to the eldership.  He did not tell us to gossip to our friends and speculate as to what has caused our brother or sister to sin.  He did not tell us to post a vague facebook status.

I want to encourage us all to follow Jesus’ wise model.  We may find ourselves surprised by the receptivity of the one whom we seek to restore.  And even if our brother continues to refuse to repent, we will know that we have done everything that we could do.