Several years ago I went out to eat with some friends. After dinner, we left the restaurant to go meet some new (to me) people. We hung out for a couple of hours and then, just as we were preparing to leave, I saw my reflection.
While this can be scary in the best circumstances, imagine my dismay to discover I had something green stuck in my teeth! And we’re not talking about a tiny speck. Oh no, I might as well have had a Buick in there.
Appalled, I asked my friends, “Why didn’t you tell me?!?” They claimed not to have noticed, but clearly they either feared an awkward conversation or did not want to embarrass me.
I’m sure most of you have a similar story—whether it was food in your teeth, discovering your pants were unzipped, or realizing you had a bat in the cave. Typically, we can (eventually) laugh about it, but the prevalence of these situations highlights a legitimate concern in the American church.
We are often so afraid of offending or embarrassing others that we fail to speak truth into their lives. We worry about how awkward it will be, so we say nothing. But this silence can carry serious ramifications for that person and everyone they encounter.
When we see a brother or sister in Christ walking around with a spiritual blemish, whether it be willful sin or unseemly acts of ignorance, we are commanded by Scripture to have a loving and discreet conversation with that person. Or, in instances in which it would be inappropriate coming from us, we must pray that God would send the right person to have that conversation with them.
We should not act like the sin police, waiting to nab anyone who messes up—not in the least. But when we see an area of concern that is negatively impacting the church’s witness, we must speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), even if it is uncomfortable. The intent of these conversations must never be to shame them but to preserve the image of Christ being reflected to the world.
On the flip side, just as we would want someone to tell us if we had food in our teeth, we must be open to receiving spiritual correction from others. We need accountability within the body of Christ because we each have our own blind spots and areas in which we struggle. Many times we are completely unaware of or immune to the negative effects of our behavior, no matter how obvious and detrimental those effects are to those around us.
One day the bride of Christ will stand before Him without blemish. Until then, we must be receptive to helpful correctives from others and never leave any of our brothers or sisters wondering, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?”