Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too.
Galatians 6:1 CEB
Think about a time when you made a mistake and you were called out on it in public. Was your first instinct to humbly admit you were wrong and try to fix whatever it was you’d done wrong? If so, you’re a rare bird. Most people don’t react positively to being corrected (and humiliated) in public like that. Most people respond by getting defensive and doubling down.
Now think about a time when you were corrected privately. It’s still not fun to be corrected, but without the added embarrassment of losing face in front of other people, it’s usually not as bad. Sometimes, we run across people who are clearly in the wrong. If it’s a Christian, and they are doing something that is counter to the gospel, it often falls on the community of believers to correct that person. But we should never jump the gun and rebuke them in a harsh way
We should offer gentle guidance. We should speak to them the way we’d want them to speak to us. Sometimes that means taking them aside and gently nudging them back onto the right path. Sometimes it means just listening to them to find out why they’re doing what they’re doing (which can lead a person to realizing their own mistakes). What it never means is getting up in someone’s face and wagging a judgmental finger at them.
Gentleness isn’t a righteously aggressive rebuke. Gentleness is taking someone by the hand and slowly guiding them back into the light.
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God, Please help me to have a spirit of gentleness, especially when I notice someone doing wrong. Help me to remember I am a sinner as well, and to treat other people the way I would want to be treated. Amen.
Kristy Burmeister writes about stalkers, church-related trauma, feminism, and pie (pretty much in that order) at kristyburmeister.com. She's currently working on a memoir about a church that almost got her murdered when she was a teenager. (Spoiler: She's still alive.)