Are you reluctant to speak up when you see others sinning? Do you walk away, having said nothing, choosing instead to “mind your own business?” Or are you courageous enough to stand up for what is right, even if others accuse you of meddling, or worse?
“But all things that are reproved are made manifest [revealed] by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest [reveals] is light.” (Ephesians 5:13 KJV)
The truth of the Bible shines light on the dark deeds of sinful man, yet these days many people are afraid to speak up. Minding your own business seems to be an unspoken rule of behavior, so much so that even in rather egregious situations people tend to be reluctant to intervene. John Quinones’ program “What Would You Do?” has repeatedly documented these inhibitions. Rather than stick our necks out and risk offending, we tend to stay silent when reproof is clearly called for. Yet this is not what the Bible teaches.
Ephesians 5:11 says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (KJV) Not only are we to refuse to participate in sin, according to the original Greek, we are to “reprove with conviction upon the offender”–in other words, reprimand, so as to convince, those guilty of sin. This is a far cry from “minding our own business.”
I firmly believe that one of the reasons our society as a whole has suffered as much moral decay as it has is because as successive generations increasingly flirted with sin, they lost the moral imperative to reprove others with conviction–it is difficult to tell others not to sin when your own conscience condemns you. Yet God requires His people to not only stay out of sin themselves, but also be willing and able to tell an increasingly corrupt and dysfunctional society that they are sinning and must repent.
This is what God called the prophets to do. This is, in fact, what John the Baptist did. His message, if you recall, was, “…Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2) To the Pharisees and Sadducees, those who trusted their religion and ethnic background to save them even though they lived wicked lives, he said, “…Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance [live a changed life that shows evidence of your conversion] and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ [Don’t trust in your religious or ethnic heritage to save you.] For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:7-10)
This same message of not trusting in our religion or background for God’s favor is a message many in our culture need to hear. It does not matter to God if you are “a member of the church” or if your ancestors founded your congregation. God is concerned that each individual have a changed heart of obedient repentance and faith in Christ.
Yet as we confront sin, and reprimand so as to convince those guilty of sin, we must not be arrogant or argumentative, but speak with humility:
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
The goal of confronting and reproving sin is not to show yourself better than another or to win an argument but to lead a fellow brother or sister out of darkness to Christ. As Paul phrased it, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Thank You that all things are made manifest–are revealed–by Your light. Help us be courageous to stand up for what is right. Help us not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if You, perhaps, will grant them repentance. Amen.