Reproof to the sinner should be intended to win him back to the Lord. Successful reaching out for a sinner should not be carried out by bitter criticism, scorn, or exposing one’s sins in the open before all to see. It must never be spoken in harshness or with a domineering attitude, but with great gentleness and love.
What the unkind manner cannot do may be done by real caring concern, with tears. The unfortunate scene of a church member falling into sin should stir the pity and concern in the heart of all true believers. Godly care and Christlike compassion should unite the church and erase differences of opinion concerning those that need discipline.
Christ rebuking sinners
Christ had great anguish as He reached out for His people. He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:378). There is no more touching or tender expression of care ever came from the lips of Jesus.
The Bible record says that Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He didn’t only weep for Israel but shed His precious blood for the nation and the whole world. He even prayed for those that crucified Him on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Christ didn’t rebuke and curse those that nailed Him to the cross but prayed for them.
Paul correcting sinners
Moved by the same spirit of His Master, Paul likewise wept over the sinners. He wrote to the Church of the Corinthians, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Corinthians 2:4). Paul showed stern reproof and discipline, not in anger but in sorrow and extreme grief. The apostle possessed boundless courage in the face of danger, persecution, and death, yet, he wept when forced to reproof his brethren in Christ (Acts 20:31; Philippians 3:18).
Paul, as a minister of the everlasting gospel, was prepared to go through any amount of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself, for the salvation of others. There was nothing weak about his love.
Neither Jesus nor Paul invested love with weak sentimentality. Both continually revealed the strength for honorable and difficult accomplishments and power to overcome the devil in whatever guise he may appear to attack the church. Jesus taught, “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Love doesn’t excuse sin
Rebuking sinners needs individuals who will not excuse sin, nor hesitate to call sin by its name (Ezekiel 9:4). They are men who, while dealing bravely with wickedness in the church, are controlled by the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14). In this mission they are repairers of the “breach” and restorers of “paths to dwell in” (Isaiah 58:12; Hebrews 13:7, 17).
Sometimes, love must be tough. Love in the church does not mean the show of compassion and long-suffering toward obstinate members at the expense of the honesty of the church or the well being of whole body. To consider love as something always necessarily soft is to identify it with weakness, lack of strength, and bravery.
The minister’s love for his members should exceed mere feeling of emotion for them, it means also a continuous care for their welfare and spiritual growth, grief over their sins, firm direction, and unyielding nerve when Satan tries to lure them away.
In His service,