My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Matthew 18:15
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1
Who does this any more? These verses ask a lot of qualifying questions. Who has a corner on the truth? Who knows enough about a person to know that they’re straying from it? Who’s willing to get in someone’s grill? Who goes anymore, except to a keyboard? Who judges his own spiritual condition before being confrontational? Who’s gentle?
There’s a Lexus commercial running these days featuring a motivational speaker grappling with the concept of empathy. We need this trait to function in a diverse world, but when you find that up’s not up and words have two or three meanings, there’s an even greater tendency to keep your powder dry.
I’ve found that you’re either born with empathy or you’re not. Most times you’ve got it in spades and you’ll tolerate just about anything, or you’re completely devoid of it and you’re basically a jerk.
Only God instills in us true empathy regardless of our genes. It goes beyond sympathy because there’s an understanding that there, but for the grace of God, go I. Empathy demands a full evaluation of one’s self. Who better to turn someone back from an evil way than someone who has travelled it? So much better is the person to have been there, done that. Who’s without sin anyway? It’s conceivable that you could be so super spiritual and so grounded in the Word to march right in to confront as Paul did Peter (Galatians 2:11), but this whole process is done with fear and trepidation on the solid ground of a sound understanding of one’s own feeble self, and a trial run in the shoes of the”wayward” soul in need of a U-turn.
Empathy always assumes from the start the presence of a potentially significant innocent “blind spot,” rather than willfulness.
Loving confrontation is a noble albeit risky cause. There’s much that is heavenly to gain but real potential for serious personal loss for the earthbound. When you put yourself out there on a limb, you risk it breaking. That’s why the models put forth by James, his half-brother, and Paul stress full reliance on the Spirit of God for courage to go in the first place, the right words to say when you get there, and the essential post-departure circumspectionx to speak on the Lord’s behalf.