1 John 5:16-17
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. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
These verses confuse many of us, and if that includes you, don’t be alarmed. All through church history, theologians and Biblical commentators have struggled to clearly explain what John meant by these words, especially his distinction between two types of sin. Perhaps the best path to understanding his meaning is to consider the entire context of John’s epistle. He has been assuring his readers that people of faith can be certain of our salvation, knowing that God loves us and has granted us new life through Christ. Our response to God’s grace is to live as children of God by following the example of love set for us by Jesus. There are some, however, who reject God’s offer of grace and refuse to follow Christ. They remain lost in sin, and for them, sin leads to death, especially the sin of rejecting the Savior.
Followers of Jesus, on the other hand, seek and are granted forgiveness for our sins. We come to Jesus acknowledging our brokenness and gratefully accepting God’s grace. We know we are sinners and that we need the Savior. We repent of sin, and when we see a brother or sister struggling with sin, we pray for them. We pray for protection against temptation. We pray for humility to confess and repent. We pray for spiritual resolve to resist sin. Just as we desire to overcome sin in our own lives, we also help one another turn away from temptation so we can more faithfully follow our Lord.
What a powerful act of love it is to pray for a sister or brother as they struggle to overcome sin. Instead of judging them or gossiping about their weakness, we ask God to give them strength. Instead of chastising them or pushing them away out of fear of being contaminated by their sin, we encourage them, stand beside them and help lead them back to the path of righteousness where “God will give them life.” That’s how Jesus loved people, isn’t it? That’s how He treated the woman caught in adultery and why He ate with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus loved people toward God. We should do the same for one another in the church, and when we are in need, we should be humble enough to ask others to help us overcome our sins.
Father in Heaven, thank You for Your grace and mercy in my life. Please forgive all my sins. Help me to encourage others to repent and find life through Jesus. Teach me to love as You love, in the name of Jesus my Savior. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian