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How Should Christians Respond to Sinners?

“Go tell that long tongue liar, go tell that midnight rider, tell the rambler, the gambler and the back biter, tell them that God’s going to cut you down.” –Johnny Cash

How should Christians talk to sinners, be they drug addicts, homosexuals, thieves, rapists, compulsive gamblers, alcoholics, sex addicts or all of the above? Speaking from personal experience, Christians should be blunt and to the point. Stop beating around the bush and say what needs to be said. In today’s cynical world, polite rebukes just do not get anything done.

Years ago, I converted to Christianity, but did not fully give up my sinful ways. I was a substance abuser. Everyone at the Wednesday night prayer meeting I went to knew I smoked marijuana and drank to excess, everyone there knew that I abused Scripture by using it to justify my sinful behaviour and nobody cared enough to set me straight.

I was broken and was resisting God and not one person had the courage or the love to rebuke me.
I eventually became so fed up with the hypocrisy that I left the church and embraced a militant atheism. I hated the church; I tried to hate God and for five years I struggled with substance abuse and a faith in crisis. When I left the church nobody called, nobody emailed, nobody sent a message through Facebook. The church had failed me and it failed Jesus.

When I ask myself: What would Jesus have done with someone like me, the answer is always-rebuke in the strongest way possible so that the message sinks in and gets past all the justifications we come up with to defend our sins.

Jesus would have walked up to me and quoted some Scripture like Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” And He would have told me to stop my immoral behaviour.

That is what we need to do more often–call people on their sins. I know this much, if I’m to love my neighbor as myself, I will do the loving thing and tell it like it is, even if it means hurting some feelings or driving them out of my life because they don’t want to hear the truth. The salvation of their soul is more important than their friendship. It is what the prophets did, it is what Jesus would do and it is what the church needs to get back to doing.

That is not to say we should be jerks or self-righteous, but we do need to be firm and adamant, speaking out of love and empathy. We are calling sinners to repentance, not insulting them. It is a fine line to walk, but if we listen to the Holy Spirit then the right worlds will come at the right time, we just need the courage to speak them.

I eventually returned to the fold after an encounter with a street preacher who set me straight about a few things I thought about the church and Christianity. I’ve been clean and sober for over three years now and my faith life is better than ever, and all it took was some stranger telling me the truth and bluntly calling me a sinner in need of repentance.

Years ago I had the text of 1 Corinthians 13 tattooed on my arm and when I think of how best to love my neighbor as myself I come to the conclusion that the best way is to tell the truth about sin and about the salvation found in Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 13If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

How do you think Christians should respond to other believers living in sin? How should they respond to those who blatantly refuse the message of the Gospel?


About Jonathan Kotyk

Jonathan Kotyk is a student, self taught philosopher, recovering addict and born again Christian. He has spent time on both the far Left and Far Right side of the political spectrum and lives in Canada.

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  1. What an awesome and truthful article,and I thank you for it! Boy, do I know the battle that you are talking about. I have a son in the homosexual lifestyle and many family members who are caught up in all sorts of sexual immorality. Such a fine line to speak truth in love, but it must be done because we love and care more for their souls than if they like us. And like you, when I was first saved I was still drinking and partying and no one at church called me on it. How I wish someone would have pulled me aside (especially coming to church drunk), and tell me the truth of my addiction.

    I have a transgender female I have been counseling and I speak truth in love to her, however, she has said to me that no one at church has pulled her aside and asked her what is going on in her life that now she is transforming from a girl to a boy. She is sad that people in the church walk right past her and never say anything to her!

    Blessings to you and keep speaking the truth my brother,

    • Terribly said and true. People go to church every week without really KNOWING each other. We need to seek out those people in our congregations that have needs, or anyone we don’t know. Church is a good opportunity to minister to other people, but too often socializing gets in the way.

  2. I give messages regularly at a rescue mission chapel service, so I speak to, and am around addicts and other people of different lifestyles. I agree with what you are saying in concept; I just word it differently. I emphasize each person taking responsibility for his or her actions and consequences. We are all sinners, but some are saved by grace. Others have not yet humbled themselves before God and called upon His name for forgiveness. They have not gotten to the point where they recognize who the real Jesus is, and made a conscious decision to invite him into their life and heart. But, you are so correct, some things are just plain sin, period. It has been said that Jesus will meet you where you are, but He won’t leave you that way.

  3. Rom. 10:14, 15 leads me to believe that maybe we should lead them to someone that has been sent. Or ask God that He blesses us or someone else speak/act with the sinner out of love, being led and guided by the Holy Spirit. Pray that the sinner remain alive until that happens. That way, we have been sent to act in a preacher capacity and have been sent or someone else of His choosing has been sent to that sinner. If we are the one that is supposed to speak, then we speak. If that be someone else, then they speak. It’s my belief that some things and certain situations are for us or not, depending on whether we are sent.

    • Some performed miracles, but John the Baptist did not. Just think. Jesus, Paul, etc. were leaders, but that’s not most folks’ calling. Some people’s talents merge with certain people, but some are better with other people. Some are better with bringing young kids up for them to be taken by those better at dealing with adolescent kids and some are meant for teaching adults or some can do it all. It’s my belief that preachers are sent to deal with more kinds of people, but those, who aren’t sent, maybe should know that they are sent to someone. THE “BLIND” CAN’T LEAD THE “BLIND”. I TAKE THAT TO MEAN THAT WE MAY HAVE SOMETHING CRITICAL TO OFFER SOMEONE, BUT WE MIGHT NOT. THEN AGAIN, WE MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING CRITICAL TO OFFER SOMEONE ELSE. What if we are not that person in a given instance? Could we do more harm than good? God knows and, if He says it, we know it to be fact. I WONDER AND, IF I’M WRONG PLEASE TELL ME.

  4. This is a terrible article. “ In today’s cynical world, polite rebukes just do not get anything done.” that’s your only justification for not talking to a sinner in a loving way? Are you just speaking from experience or did you ask the other millions of Christians that do talk to sinners in a loving way that is effective? Articles like this are why sinners give Christians a bad name. Articles like this are why the number one reason people leave church are because of judge mental christians. If you act like the writer of this, the person will think Christians are jerks and have no desire to listen. This is disgusting.

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