How Do I Confront a Friend Who Is “Sinning”?

Anonymous asked a question:

What do you do if you’re asking a non-Christian friend what they’re up to and they respond with telling you they’re doing some activity you know is sinful? Let’s say they could tell you they’re smoking or doing something dishonest or they’re practicing wicca. What’s the proper response to something like that?

Hey dear friend, just a few thoughts on this.

– I would first determine what is “sinful.” Why is it sinful to you? What makes it sin? Is it based on your preference or discomfort? Is there real harm being done? What is the sin against?

– If you lead with, “You’re a sinning sinner and you’re sinful,” I wouldn’t expect that person to hear you out. It has to start with dialogue first.

– If you find that your friend is truly being destructive towards their neighbors and themselves, then I would ask questions. I once knew a person who eventually trusted me enough to say, “I’m going to kill someone today.” My first instinct was to slowly back away and climb out the window. But I asked, “How do you think that would work out for you?” After a few minutes, that person finally said, “Yeah, I guess it wouldn’t work out at all.”

– Calling out somebody on their stuff requires a surgical gentleness and supernatural compassion. Most people are absolutely incapable of being gentle enough to call someone out. Usually they scream or vent or tell them off or shut them down or throw things, as if yelling enough will make someone change. If you don’t think you can be gentle enough to keep your friend accountable, then for the love of God, let someone else do it. I strongly encourage you, unless you’re coming from a place of deep love and grace, then you’re not the one who can help this person. And that’s okay: we can’t always be the one who does.

– Compassionate Curiosity: Ask this person what their “sin” or habit does for them. Very often, they will talk themselves out of it.

– Love. Respect. Understand. Enter their world. Know that their choices have often been the only way they knew how to do things. Like a pastor once said, Everything that everyone does makes sense to them. If you rebuke someone right away, it’s as if you’re rebuking their entire identity and sense of worth. First understand why. Because if you grew up in the same situation with the same options and trauma and upbringing, you’d be doing the same thing too. Love them through their eyes. We are not better than anyone; we are fellow travelers each with our own darkness, trying to help the other see.

— J.S.

Photo from Unsplash

3 thoughts on “How Do I Confront a Friend Who Is “Sinning”?

  1. Ok Pastor Park you missed something key here: this is a NON-Christian friend. As in, a person without the supernatural power necessary to avoid sin. What do you do when your NON-Christian friends tells you they’re sinning? Nothing.

    I imagine this conversation like this:
    “Hey what you up to?”
    “Getting drunk!” or “About to get frisky with this guy I just met”
    “Oh, well . . . ok, I was just wanting to hang out but I’m not really into that scene. Catch ya later.”
    That’s all that needs to be said. “Not my thing.”

    How do you confront a non-Christian who is sinning? You don’t.

    (If your non-Christian friend is hurting someone, stand up for the oppressed, but I’m not imagining the person writing this question is being confronted with a non-Christian friend who is doing something harmful, or the question would have been worded differently.)

    How do you confront a BROTHER or SISTER who is sinning? Matthew 18:15-17

    How do you determine what is a sin? Read the Bible. The whole thing. Read those Levitical laws, the Sermon on the Mount, Revelation and everything in-between. Don’t make judgments on a single passage without considering the whole of Scripture. Consider that perhaps we’re all a little wrong in how we understand just about everything, and that includes the Holy Word. Consider that God is sovereign and His reign is not threatened by our frailty. Even if we are wrong in what we consider to be sin, THERE IS GRACE. Give as much grace as you’ve been given and you can’t go wrong.

    If I’ve crossed a line please delete my comment. I don’t want to cause a problem.

    Take care, fellow traveler. I hope my words are helpful in some way.


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