When are we responsible/obligated to talk to others about their sins?

From what I’ve read, at times we are obligated to hinder or disclose the sins of others, though I couldn’t find a definitive answer on when exactly we are to do so.

I did find this, however, stating that we are obligated to do so only if…

  1. You are in a position of authority over the person, i.e., parent, teacher, boss, etc.
  2. Or you have a good enough relationship with the person to make suggestions about his behavior.
  3. And you have reason to believe that your correcting the person will have a positive effect.

Is this mindset accurate?

I would say yes, it i accurate. However, it can be tricky because people typically do not like correction. As long as you are not in, or committing, the same sin and can communicate it in a loving and humble manner, people will listen.

Admonishing the sinner is, IMS, a spiritual work of mercy.

But we have to be careful. Remember the specks and planks.



The question is can you stand the “heat” for trying to do this. I must pass a hundred people in a week that I could admonish, but I don’t.

Your third condition didn’t copy in here, but I don’t think that the probability of success is what determines what we do.

I’m not a scholar or anything, but I’ve read some Jewish books on morality. WE ask hard questions like yours, that seem to have black and white answers. Jewish moralists have, over the centuries, weighed the pros and cons of a lot of questions. I don’t remember specifically reading about your question, but I’d take a stab at the Jewish response as this:

Thou shalt not kill, even yourself. so, if admonishing the sinner would result in your personal danger, then you might have to bite your tongue and hold back. And, even moderate personal inconvenience might deter you. But, let’s say, somebody has a gun and is pointing it at another person (or even yourself), I think you’d be doing right or even have a duty to say “don’t shoot.”

Your question is very broad. If a person is planning to do something that is obviously wrong, like rob a bank, you shouldn’t have to tell him not to do it. There are so many versions and situations, it’s hard to give just one answer.

If catching a child doing wrong, and it is sinful behavior, a parent or any responsible adult should tell him or her they are doing wrong and why. Just slapping the kid or making him stand in the corner doesn’t always make him realize that what they are doing is not only bad, but sinful. If they ask why it is sinful, not to say “because I told you so.” Give them a concrete reason.

Even when they don’t listen, when the correction is done in a calm loving manner you will have planted a seed that may bloom in the future…


Personally, I think #2 is really, really important here.

I have heard far too many Catholics and Christians thinking, for example, they should tell each and every LGBT person they barely know – e.g., at work, in the neighborhood – that their actions are sinful and they’ll go to hell if they don’t stop.

The main justification I’ve heard for this is that if we don’t admonish “the sinner” we will be held responsible for their sins. In other words, it’s not an act of mercy towards someone in sin, but rather for our own good. :tsktsk:

Personally, in my line of study in college (musical theater) and in my work (teaching in the public schools) I have known and loved dozens upon dozens of LGBT persons. Self-righteous acquaintances informing them that their lifestyle is sinful only pushes them further away from Christ. Does anyone honestly think they don’t already know what Christianity teaches about homosexuality? :confused:

And so it goes with a huge variety of sins.

Trying to admonish someone with whom we have a very slight relationship only comes off as us trying to “force” our religious views on others, or show how righteous we are.

Just my two cents…

To an extent yes. I think that strongly depends on the relationship you have with this person. Some people purposefully remain distant so no one can tell them what to do. Ultimately you “must” respect people’s boundaries. It is difficult to correct adults though. Before you correct, be assured you have your facts correct.

I think this can easily be abused. I have had a close friend. Both Christians. The nature of our friendship seemed to revolve around her constantly correcting me. My OWN MOTHER does not seem to hound me as much. My mother DID NOT LIKE that at all. IT CAN BE A POWER-TRIP FOR SOMEONE TO ALWAYS BE IN THE “RIGHT” and have the authority to correct someone else. IT WAS ALWAYS HER CORRECTING ME, the dynamics of our friendship was just that. I was WRONG and she was always RIGHT. If I did ever muster the courage to correct her, according to her, I did not know what I was talking about, her shortcomings were not serious enough to warrant correction, blah blah. I THINK SOME PEOPLE ENJOY PUTTING OTHERS IN THEIR PLACE OR HIGHLIGHTING OTHER PEOPLE’S SHORTCOMINGS CONSTANTLY. Outside of my immediate family and my best friend, I LISTEN TO NO ONE except priest, employer, doctor or psychologist.

Check your motivation to admonish.

Is it out of love or out of a desire to humiliate, belittle another or inflate yourself?

Yes there are people that admonish because of the second reason.

Be honest with yourself.

This should help:


Ezekiel 33
33 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. 5 Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’

One of the details of this story is that the watchman’s duty is to herald a warning to the people. The charge to warn the people was not placed upon the shoulders of every citizen, but only upon the one chosen to be the watchman.

We also have certain relationships in which we are the designated “watchman” – e.g., parents of minor children, teachers, pastors.

And we have some close relationships in which we don’t have the watchman’s authority or responsibility, but we can make some difference – e.g., siblings, close friends.

Personally, I think it is essential to keep in mind that fraternal correction takes place in the context of a relationship. Not every relationship is appropriate ground for this. I should not appoint myself as “watchman” for my colleagues at work, for example, or for strangers in the local park.

:thumbsup: This is very reasonable.

Sometimes I am asked directly for my input and I give it. Those situations are rare, and rarer still is my input genuinely wanted (sometimes people are just spoiling for a fight). :stuck_out_tongue:

I prefer to live by example. I don’t know that I’ve personally brought about a conversion in anyone, but I was converted this way, and I’ve had people say, who I never thought in a million years would, that they admire my conviction as well as my compassion even when they disagree. That still opens a little crack for God to work in.

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