Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Decades of “live and let live” have largely eliminated the desire and ability to wisely and lovingly confront others. That, along with the fear that logs in our own eyes may disqualify us (Matthew 7:5), mean we generally “abandon others to their sin.” However as Bonhoeffer states, such leniency (which we likely see as kind) is actually cruel.
While the moment of confrontation may feel cruel to us, the greater cruelty is to see another person on a path headed to destruction and refusing to warn them. We would never accuse the highway department of cruelty for posting a “Bridge Out Ahead” warning sign on the road. It would be the failure to post such a warning that would be cruel.
Just as it’s the highway department’s job to give us such warnings, Scripture says it’s our job to warn one another of the hazards ahead. And as Bonhoeffer contends, doing so is an act of compassion. James put it this way:
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
The command isn’t for us to go looking for error in the lives of others. Instead, if/when we see it, we’re to lovingly, kindly, gently, yet clearly state what is obvious to us so as to keep their car from plunging off a cliff. Remember, to do so is compassionate; to refuse is cruel. –Dave
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