Judging – it’s something that we do so easily. It can be difficult to live out the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”. Learning how to love our neighbor well, while recognizing their sin (especially when that sin is affecting us) is a skill that must be worked at. That’s why we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s post to the three things that must be done to effectively call out sin, without condemning the sinner.
1.) The call to conversion must be done with compassion
It’s imperative that when confronting others about their sin, that we do so with compassion. What do we mean by compassion? Compassion doesn’t mean that you skirt around the issue and avoid the problem; compassion means that you tell someone the truth of their error in love. Compassionate correction may mean having the talk in private rather than in front of your group of friends. Or it may be something as simple as starting the conversation with making it clear that you love that person.
The key to maintaining compassion when having difficult conversations about sin, is asking; am I offending this person’s dignity in my efforts to help them see the truth? If you answer yes, that means your efforts to bring truth to that person are in fact futile.
Bringing the love of Christ to our neighbor is in direct conflict with any kind of behavior that violates what Pope John Paul II, called the personalistic norm. The personalistic norm states that the person is a kind of being such that only love constitutes the proper and fully-mature relation to it. In short you can hit someone with the hardest facts in the word, but if you do so without love it is uncharitable.
2.) There must be a previous relationship that is built on trust
“Hey, I just met you – but can I talk to you about how you’re going to hell?” Please, don’t be this person. I’ve been this person. This person sucks.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t evangelize to strangers, evangelizing is awesome and is a direct command from Jesus Christ. We just have to be careful about how we evangelize. Telling someone about their sin, should be reserved for those relationships where we know the person well and have a well-grounded relationship. The more that we know someone, the better able we will be to speak to their heart and mind.
Speaking about the sin in our life is a very intimate thing, that’s why we can’t expect a stranger to let us enter into their business. Evangelization is a process. The first step is always being a friend.
3.) Before removing the splinter from your brother’s eye, make sure there isn’t a plank in your own
When we see the faults in those around us, it’s often a reflection of the deficiency in our own person. So before you bring someone’s sin to their attention, make sure you’ve got yourself in check.
Doing this ensures that we will look at the sin of others clearly. Jesus said very plainly: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Sin clouds our ability to see reality as it truly is. If there is unaddressed grave sin in our own lives, how can we possibly think about evangelizing to others? This is why it is especially important that those in teaching/advisory positions in the Church remain close to the sacraments and daily prayer. In staying close to the sacraments and prayer, they maintain a state of grace. When we are in a state of grace, this is when we are most equipped to fraternally correct our brothers and sisters in Christ and lead them towards Jesus.
Calling out sin is most definitely possible; we just need to make sure that we do so out of authentic love and concern for our neighbor.
Have a blessed week.
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