“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 13: If 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?