All Christians agree that sin in our own lives needs to be exposed and killed. But what about sins in others’ lives? The temptation for us is to lean too heavily on the idea of “judge not” and simply ignore the sins of others, but that’s not what we’re called to do. Here’s what Paul writes to Timothy about it:
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. – Ephesians 5:11
What unfruitful works is Paul talking about here? Well, he lists several of them in verses 3-5, but it’s just a representative list. All sins are “unfruitful works of darkness”.
So, we’re agreed with the first idea that we’re to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but what about the second part: instead expose them? There are a few ways that we are to do that as Christians.
1. Correcting fellow believers
This sounds harsh, but it’s actually one of the most loving things we can do for a fellow believer. Sin is horrid, and it does nothing except damage the brother and his relationship with God and others. To expose their sin and help them through it, as in Matthew 18, is our mandate and part of loving one another.
2. Sharing the gospel
When it comes to exposing the sins of unbelievers, it needs to be for the purpose of sharing the gospel. For what good is it to raise an unbeliever to our level of morality if they still wouldn’t believe? What good would it be to take America back to the morality of the 1800s if multitudes of those “good people” would go to hell? No, our purpose for exposing the sins of unbelievers is first and foremost for the purpose of sharing with them that their sins are bad news. Their sins have put them in a position of enmity with God, and they stand in the way of His righteous wrath. But the good news is that we offer a way out of wrath and into salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. If we expose sin without introducing grace, we’re no better than Westboro Baptist. By the way, for believers, we continually need to be reminded of the gospel as well.
3. Being who we are in Christ
One of the ways that we exposing is saying nothing at all. We have been called to be lights in this world, and part of being light is exposing sin. If the church were to act like Christ, then the world around it would be clearly distinct from the church. The church would be a light shining into darkness, exposing the sins hiding therein. And we wouldn’t need to say anything in this case. Sin is exposed by virtue of our letting our good works shine before men.
So, sheep, we can’t just ignore others’ sins. In fact to not expose sin is sin itself because it’s our mandate as believers. But more than it being technically a sin, it’s the most unloving thing we could do to leave others in the way of God’s wrath without saying a word. It would be like noticing someone standing in the way of a speeding train and turning our backs. Wouldn’t we rather try to tackle them out of the way? Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.