“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14 ESV)
Have you ever had to tell someone that their zipper was undone? That a piece of toilet paper was stuck to their shoe, or a piece of spinach in their teeth? If so, you know how hard that is. Nobody wants to be the bringer of embarrassing news. We imagine ourselves in that situation, and we cringe.
And yet, if you are the person who has the problem—aren’t you intensely grateful to the person who finally points it out, so you can fix it? And don’t you resent the people who saw you all day with a rip in your trousers and never said a word to rescue you?
In the same way, the author of Hebrews tells us to keep an eye on one another. All of us are liable to fall into sin. Sin is deceitful, he tells us. It trips us up when we don’t even recognize it. We may be going on our merry way through life not recognizing that we have fallen into a dangerous pattern of gossiping or resentment or addiction. We may even feel self-righteous about our problem, mistaking it for something innocent or even good. That’s when we need a loving Christian brother or sister to gently point out the truth.
Why do this? Because “we have come to share in Christ” together. We are joined in Christ. If my brother or sister falls into sin, it does damage to everybody—the whole body of Christ. It’s never true that “Well, he’s harming nobody but himself.” It would be more true to say, “He’s harming himself, and therefore he’s harming other people.” If we love one another, we cannot ignore serious evils that have the possibility of dragging somebody away from Jesus.
But how are we to do this very embarrassing task, then? Paul tells us: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1 ESV). We don’t dare to be self-righteous about it—after all, that could be us caught in sin, next time. Absolutely we want to be gentle, just as we hope others would be with us—just as Christ Himself is with us. For there is no one who never sins.
We can look at Jesus for an example. When He had to deal with sin in His people, He did not ignore it. He did not brush it away, or pretend that it was not serious. He knew. He realized that it was going to take His own suffering, death, and resurrection to rescue us from our mess—to bring us back to God, clean and pure and healthy again. And He loved us. So that’s exactly what He did.
But having done all that for us, notice what Jesus does not do. He does not yell at us and say, “You ought to be grateful!” He does not upbraid us or ask, “Why do you keep falling into the same sin again and again?” No, He loves us now just as He loved us then. He picks us up, cleans us off, and holds us to His heart. He is patient with us and long-suffering. And with His Holy Spirit living in us, we can do the same with our fellow believers.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, You have loved and corrected and rescued me. Live in me so that I care for my fellow Christians rightly, not harming them and not ignoring their needs. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved” on your website.
1. Which is more likely to be your temptation—to ignore sin when someone needs to speak up, or to speak too quickly, harshly, and publicly?
2. When has someone pointed out a problem you had, however big or small, and you were grateful to them?
3. When has the Lord used someone else to draw you closer to Him?