We live in a world that cries out for tolerance, but what it really needs is love. Not tolerance that masquerades as love, but REAL LOVE. The kind of love that calls others to become better people, but shows grace and mercy. The kind of love that God so freely provides. The world isn’t missing this love because there is no one to give it, it is missing this love because people do not want to receive it. People are quick to cite Matthew 7:1, (Judge not, that you be not judged) and are quick to say “God loves everyone,” or “No one is perfect,” as a way to skirt confronting sin, especially when it is personal, or it makes us uncomfortable. These arguments do not excuse sin, and do not make us any less accountable for our own sin, and our responsibility to exhort others to repent.
When taken in context, Matthew 7:1-5 is not meant to prohibit evaluating another person and calling someone out on their sin. It is meant to remind us to not judge others more harshly than ourselves out of pride and superiority (as the Pharisees are well known for doing). Note verse 2: “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Make no mistake, we will all be judged by God’s standards on the Judgment Day (Mt 25:31-46), but if we consistently use harsher standards for others than we do for ourselves, those harsher standards will be applied to us. We are to approach each other with humility as fellow sinners, and with a heart to help our brothers and sisters, not to condemn them. It is not our place to condemn someone to hell or admit them into heaven, but it is our job to help others reach salvation. (See the Great Commission, Mt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15,16, among other references.)
Christians are supposed to be Christ-like in our actions. Jesus did not simply let sin slide. When he confronted sin, he rebuked the sin, and told them to go, and sin no more.es (John 8:11). Jesus does not shy away from sin, because he came here for sinners. (Mt 9:13) Remember, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Romans 6:1,2) “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26, 27). Yes, we will stumble, and yes we will fall, but if we have been buried in Christ in baptism, then we can be forgiven, as long as we repent, and do everything we can to put away sin. Will that always happen? No. Should we tell ourselves “Well, I’m not perfect, so what does it matter if I commit this sin or that sin or all of these sins here because I’ve been baptized and can be forgiven?” Absolutely not! Hebrews 10:26 clearly states that is not the attitude we should have!
Love is not just tolerance. A parent who loves does not tolerate that child doing whatever they want. If a parent forbids a child to do something, it is usually for that child’s safety, but sometimes parents make mistakes. God, who is the perfect father, does not make such mistakes. If He tells us something is sin, or tells us not to do something, it is because he loves us and knows what is best for us, and doing otherwise would lead to us hurting ourselves. Sometimes this harm is physical, but it is always spiritually harmful for us. Why? Because sin separates us from God, and condemns not only our bodies, but our souls to death. (Gen 2:17, Rom 6:23, Rom 8:2, Eph 2:12-18, among others.) He expects us to follow Christ as closely as we can, but knows that we can’t do it without Christ to pay the price for our failures. That is what grace is, and that is how we are to look at ourselves and others.
So before you jump to point out another person’s sin, ask yourself these things:
1) Why am I saying this?
If you are saying this to tear someone else down, or make yourself look better, then you are not acting in a Christlike manner.
2) Am I pointing this sin out to someone to help them walk in a way more that is more worthy and pleasing to God?
If that isn’t the reason, and you aren’t willing to help them do so (whether it be offering accountability, or guiding them to someone who can help, or just being an encouragement) then you should talk to someone else about confronting this person.
3) Am I ignoring sin in my own life that makes me just as guilty as this person?
If so, then you need to re-evaluate your reason for talking about or to this person. Perhaps instead of just pointing out their sin, you should take the time to confess your own, and both of you can work together and hold each other accountable in the future.
4) Am I confronting the person who is guilty of this sin?
If not, then you should only be mentioning this to someone who could help with the situation. Otherwise, it’s gossip, and therefore a sin.
5) Am I speaking in a way that conveys love?
If not, then you should find a better way to say what you are trying to say. Remember, you are a sinner too, and you should approach another about their sin the way you would want them to approach you.
If someone rebukes another for sin, it should not be because of hate. It should be a sign of love and compassion, a reflection of Christ’s love for us. I am not tolerant of sin in others, because I am not tolerant of sin in myself. However, I know that I am not perfect, and I know that no one else is perfect, and because of that, I offer them the grace that I have accepted from God through Christ. I need to work on my own walk, and therefore I know that others do as well. I know I need someone to tell me what I am doing wrong sometimes, and I need their help in order to do better. That is why I will call out sin in others, so that I can offer them help. Not because I hate or fear them, but because I love them, and I want to build them up and help make them a better Christian. The world does not need more tolerance of sin from Christians, it needs more Christians who are willing to extend Christ’s love.
As a final note, not everyone will open their heart to the message of Christ. Not everyone will repent and be baptized. Not everyone will accept that they need to be cleansed of their sins. When you encounter such people, do not be discouraged. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew 10:11-15.
“And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgement for that land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”
When people harden their hearts, then there is little we can do but pray that God may soften it. Perhaps what you have done is plant a seed that one day another will water, and God will grow. (1 Cor 3:6,7)
Grace and Peace,
All Scripture references are from the ESV translation, unless otherwise noted