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How Do We Lovingly Admonish the Sinner?

Tim Staples gives advice on how we can fulfill God’s command to admonish sinners and instruct the ignorant, emphasizing the importance of praying for wisdom and maintaining the role of friendship.

Host: You wouldn’t believe it, but Anne-Marie here, she walked in from Lexington, Kentucky as well.

Tim: They walked in, all three of them.

Host: Carrying twin boys.

Tim: Well actually, the two babies didn’t walk in, technically.

Host: Anne-Marie, I know you have a question for Tim. Before I let you ask that question, though, I just want to say, thanks for naming the boys Cy and Tim. I appreciate that. I was really excited to get that news. I bet your husband Ray is excited to get that news too. What’s your question for Tim?

Guest: Absolutely, so my question is: how do–you know, we have so many people in our lives, friends–how do you balance loving someone versus calling them out, like when you know that they’re in the wrong, maybe?

Tim: Yes, oh that’s such a good question, and an important question, because, of course, two of the six spiritual works of mercy, as we see in the Catechism of Catholic Church paragraph 2447, are admonishing the sinner and educating the unlearned. So those are very important. We’re going to be judged by God as to whether or not we did these things, right?

So I think here’s the key, two major points. Number one: there is no such thing as “This is how you do it: step one, step two, step three,” and then they convert. I wish it would work that way, but it really doesn’t. The key is, first and foremost, I always point folks to James 1:5, that says: “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and upbraideth not”; in other words, He will never say no. He will always give you wisdom if you ask for it.

Of course, I always point out the caveat here: often it takes time. Wisdom comes through pain, it comes through experience and failure, but God will give you wisdom over time. And the implication is, of course, you don’t just ask once. We have to continually ask God for wisdom, because wisdom helps us to be able to know how to choose between goods; what’s good, what’s better, what’s best. That’s what’s so important about wisdom.

Now, the second point is: in the situation you’re talking about, you’re the friend. And that is the most important thing. We emphasize here–don’t we a lot, Cy–that friendship-evangelism. You know, my good friend Steve Ray will often say this: if you were to meet a stranger on the street and you walk up to him and say, “Hey! How are your kidneys?” He’s gonna look at you like you’re crazy and walk in the other direction. “Get this guy away from me!” But what if you got to know that guy, went out for beers, you become friends, and a year later you hear he has some problems with his kidneys. You walk up to him in the street and you say, “Hey, how are your kidneys?” He says, “Oh, thanks for asking, man.” Same words, same person, but what’s the difference? Friendship!

So the fact that you’re friends and you know the person, that is an open door for you. But it doesn’t mean you come barging through, because friendship takes time and love and openness, and that’s why you pray to God: “God, show me when the door is open, so that I can share.”

Now it doesn’t mean it’s gonna work. Don’t–we fall into the error all the time of thinking, you know, we confuse faithfulness with success, and of course, just because the person–if you feel like God’s opened the door and you share with them, “You know what, you’re a little bit off right here, let me let me explain why,” and you do it in a loving way, you may get–you know, hammered. Doesn’t mean you messed up, you know.

Because sometimes, of course, even the best of us get crucified. Yeah, in fact, the very best of us got crucified for speaking the truth, and that is Jesus Christ. But we have to, I believe, Cy, on our side, do everything we can not to be jerks, alright? Jesus never said “Blessed are the jerks.” I did not see that in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the jerks.” But I do see “Blessed are the merciful.” Right? And so if we have love and we have mercy in our hearts, and this is understood as a spiritual work of Mercy, and we share it when we believe God opens the door, let God take care of the rest.

Guest: Awesome, thank you.

Tim: All right, God bless.

Host: Thanks, Anne-Marie.

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