Rebuking sin and having compassion

In response to a post on Facebook with this picture featuring these words,

  • True Christians rebuke sin and expose it.
  • False Christians practice sin and defend it.
  • A friend of the world is the enemy of God.

James 4:4

I commented:

Not sure that’s a valid dichotomy, Jason. There’s more to this than meets the eye. The Bible also says that love covers over a multitude of sins. Jesus himself said that people would know us by our love, not how well we rebuke sin.

There is a time for us as Christians to rebuke sin, but it is not to be our trademark. It is worth noting the types of sin Jesus rebuked, and the types he did not rebuke. He was forthright and blunt in his rebuke of the religious leaders of the day who used God’s name in vain by pretending to obey him while living lives of pride and sin. But for the crowds who followed him he had compassion, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were lost and helpless.

Yes, he still dealt with their sin, but first he dealt with the pain in their lives that was a result of their sin. He fixed the messed up brokenness that was there in deep compassion. And people turned from their sin and put their trust in him as a result.

This is not an excuse for Christians to live as they like, in sin – that merely puts us back where the religious leaders in Jesus’ time were. It is a call to us as God’s people to be a people who are known for their compassion for the lost and helpless, doing just as Jesus did, caring for people living in the brokenness of their lives. Loving, healing, encouraging, building up, challenging them, pointing them to the Saviour, introducing them to Jesus, challenging them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus did.

A further comment on this thread on 7 February 2013:


A text taken out of context is a pretext.

Quoting a series of texts taken out of their context proves nothing.

No-one is arguing that we should not keep God’s commands. The point is that Jesus himself said that our trademark should be the love we show for one another. Shouting at other people that they are doing wrong is not to be our trade mark.

You have taken a number of texts from the gospel according to John and the epistle of John. Go back and read those texts in their context. John is so insistent on our showing our faith by the love we show to one another that you have to take texts out of context to miss it.

Remember that the fault line of sin is not between true Christians and false Christians, but through the human heart. We are all sinners. We are all in need of a Saviour.

If I were to rephrase the original statement in the pic at the top of this thread, I would say something like this:

True Christians by their deeds of mercy and compassion
to those who are oppressed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd
will by their acts of love and mercy
expose sin in this world and bring it in to the light
so that it may be seen to be the evil that it is.

It’s not us shouting at them. It’s us showing love and mercy and compassion and thereby making evil deeds obvious. One of the Roman writers commenting on the early church remarked that there was nobody around the Christians who went without or who were hungry. That showed up the persecutors who were giving them a hard time.

This is how we are to expose sin.