Pray v. Prey: The Christian’s Responsibility Regarding Sin

In our world today, there are many meaningful Christians who do things in an effort to make the sinner more like them, rather than like God; Christians who think God should smite the sinner dead for what others are doing; they will get on their bandwagon in an effort to get other Christians to prey on the other person who has sinned. But, what does God say we should do when someone sins?

As I was reading 1 John 5 recently, there was a verse that jumped out at me. In verse 16 of that chapter, the writer says:

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. 1 John 5:16a(NIV)

The first thing I noticed is that when a brother or sister sins, my responsibility is to pray for that person. Is that what I am doing? Am I praying or am I preying?

If I get on the social network and try to get everyone to do the same thing I am doing, it is probably preying. Or if I develop an organization condemning the other person, I am probably preying. If I am the first to post the other person’s sin, do I like getting other people to “like” it? Doesn’t that make me feel really good? When I prey on someone, I want other people to think more highly of me than the other person. I want them to condemn the other person, just like I am condemning them.

In the Gospel of Matthew, the writer recorded these words of Jesus:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:5(NIV)

In the time in history when this was written, the synagogues and street corners were the social media of the day. The hypocrites wanted the maximum exposure to what they were saying. They get their reward, their short period of gratification…just like I would get on the social media or the organizations I may try to start.

However, that is not how I am supposed to pray. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t stop there with His instruction for praying, He continued with these words:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:6-8(NIV)

You will also notice that this scripture indicates that God knows what the other person needs; we do not have to tell God how to answer our prayer.

This brings us to the second important concept mentioned in 1 John 5:16. Once we pray, it is not our responsibility to change the other person. God is the one who brings life, not us. Somehow, as Christians, we want to confront that person (prey on that person) so we can have the satisfaction of changing that person to our way of thinking.

Has it ever occurred to you that God may have already answered your pray and is in the process of changing that person? If we attempt to put words into God’s mouth, we may be hindering God from changing that person into the person He wants them to be.

When we pray and give God multiple choice answers that he should give, we are babbling like pagans because God already knows how He is going to answer your prayer.

Galatians 5 tells us what the acts (sins) of the flesh are:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Galatians 5:19-21a(NIV)

These sins mentioned in Galatians is the sin of the flesh (self). Every sinful act mentioned is a side effect of living in the flesh. As Christians we have a tendency to condemn the side effects of the sinful act and not the sinful act itself. In fact, in many cases, we are acting in the flesh when we condemn the other person’s ‘sinful act’.

Galatians 5 also tells us how we should respond to the person involved in the sin of the flesh:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-26(NIV)

If you want to help the person who commits sin, these are the tools you will use with that person. When used properly, these are the tools that cause the person who sinned, want the life that God has to offer.

When you use flesh to fight flesh, the only person to win is the one acting in the flesh. Let us fight flesh with spirit. In other words, let us ‘pray for the sinner’ and not ‘prey on the sinner’.

Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV unless otherwise noted.