By: William Jackson
The Tanakh does put a negative slant on one being contemptuous, quarrelsome or even nagging (Proverbs 19:13, 21:9, 19, 25:24, 27:15). As Proverbs 15:1 advises us “A gentle reply turns away wrath, but a distressing word stirs up anger”. In fact many of the Holy Writings talk about resolving conflict with patience not anger (Proverbs 15:18, 16:32, 20:3, 29:22, Ecclesiastes 7:9). So, are we to apply to the age old adage “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Not really, Leviticus 19:16 tells us we are charged with responsibility to tell people when they are in sin. Furthermore, Leviticus 19:16 goes on and says if we don’t inform them we will assume the responsibility are their vices. Ouch, talk about a fragile situation, on one hand you are called to warn your brothers and sisters, but on the other you are not to come across as confrontational in doing so. Some might say that this is impossible, but it is possible. You just need to do two things: simply present your observations as facts and make sure you know where it is at in Scripture. Remember, these are God’s laws, not your opinion. Also, let yourself off the hook. There is no reason to badger them into submission, that is the job of their conscience not yours. As we noticed with Cain, before he killed Abel God did confront him. God simply said to Cain “…if you don’t do what is good, sin is crouching at the door — it wants you, but you can rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7). God did not haggle with Cain to get it right, He simply presented the facts and consequences. Yes, Cain failed, but under no circumstance did God. Granted, we are not gods, but we are to be godly (Psalm 4:4, 12:2, 29:1). So, shouldn’t we handle things the way God would?
Ezekiel chapter 3 reinforced this point of view through “The Watchman” concept. God appointed Ezekiel as the watchman for Israel (Ezekiel 3:17). It was Ezekiel’s job to tell people when they were in sin. If he didn’t do his job God would hold him accountable (Ezekiel 3:18), but if he did his job and they kept sinning, Ezekiel was no longer accountable (Ezekiel 3:19). As with many of the writing of the prophets, God used their lives as analogies for us to follow.
As Leviticus 19:16 charges us with the task of warning our neighbors, the next verse 17 tells us how to do it, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart…”. In short, we are to correct our Brothers without malice. Here are a few tips:
- Do not do it publicly.
- Have your supporting verse/s available.
- Start off by saying “This isn’t personal…”
- Avoid stating your opinion.
- Control the tone of your voice.
- Choose the right “Body Language”.
Whether you chose to follow these tips or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that you tell someone when they are in sin.