In wisdom and love God does not leave his people to live this life alone, but rather calls us into community. One of the sad inevitabilities of living in community is that we will sin against one another. The invitation to Christian community is an invitation to be tested by other people’s sin and weakness.
There are many ways to react badly when sinned against by another Christian. Some of us tend to react with sulking and feeling sorry for ourselves. Some go big and blow up while others give in to the slow, brooding kind of anger. Some just walk away. There are as many ways to react badly to sin as there are ways to sin against one another. There are not nearly as many ways to react well to being sinned against. The Bible gives us two: lovingly overlook that sin or lovingly address that sin. The question is, when are we to overlook and when are we to address?
The well-known eighteenth chapter of Matthew provides a detailed roadmap for addressing sin, but before a person follows that route, he first needs to determine whether or not this is the kind of sin he can simply overlook. Overlooking a sin is held high in Scripture. Proverbs 19:11 says “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 12:16 says that “the prudent ignores an insult” and on the other side of the cross, in 1 Peter 4:8, we are commanded, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
Love covers a multitude of sins, but love does not always cover a multitude of sins. There are situations in which the most loving action is to address a sin, to make known to the other person that you have been offended by his words or deeds, and to give him the opportunity to repent and seek forgiveness.
Here is how you can go about determining whether this is an offense you should overlook, or an offense you should address.