Psychologist and child education specialist Alexander Tkachenko talks about how we should act when we see other people’s sins.
There has been much talk recently about the need to call a spade a spade and condemn sin. This is understandable: God-fearing people are disturbed by the increase of sin in the world. And the motive to condemn sin is clear: Any Christian should be concerned not only with his salvation, but also the salvation of his neighbor. This all sounds fine, save one wrinkle: Everything one does in the Church must be done, so to say, according to one's rank and in a godly manner. In other words, it matters how we care about the salvation of others. Any old way will not do. To do it correctly, we must try hard to become the servants of God He wants us to be, so that our neighbors see an exemplary man or woman of God in us, in whose presence they find it impossible to continue living in sin and passion.
It shouldn't be our words alone that condemn, even if they are true, but our chastity and righteousness. Saint John Chrysostom clearly defined how we should show concern for the salvation of others, “There is nothing colder than a Christian unconcerned with the salvation of others… Tell me: If yeast mixed with flour doesn’t spread its qualities to the rest of the dough, is it truly yeast? Also, if myrrh doesn’t impart its fragrance to those who come near, can we call it myrrh? This is why you mustn’t say, 'I can’t help others.' Had you been a (true) Christian, it would have been impossible for you to do otherwise… If we do well that which depends on us, then undoubtedly we will be able to help others.”
It turns out we are called to lead others to salvation by our behavior and our living according to God's Commandments. Only then, according to St. John Chrysostom, will their conversion be a natural consequence of our virtue.
And to avoid the danger of discord when exposing someone else’s sins, I should try to avoid pointing out his sins until I have learned to see my own sins just as well. And not only that, but until I have learned to overcome them with God’s help. Only then will such condemnation be for the greater good of both the sinner and myself. Only then will I be able not only to draw attention to sin, but also to support someone struggling with it.
There is another rule I have gleaned from the teachings of the Holy Fathers: Only those you truly love, those for whom you are willing to lay down your life, should you help to see their sins. The saints loved everyone without any distinction, having become like Christ. Not being a saint, but seeing your neighbor's sin and wishing to help him change his ways, you should first stop and think—what are you willing to do for his sake, to help him change his ways? How special is this person to you? It's not enough to help him see his sin; you must also help him overcome it. It means that you will also inevitably suffer retribution for his sin. You will have to suffer for him and take on part of his burden according to the law of love. If you aren’t prepared for this, make a conscious effort to work on yourself and refrain from condemning your neighbor’s sins. It would be better to concentrate on condemning your own.