As a pastor, there are two situations I find myself in at times. I’d like to explain why I handle them the way I do.
First situation: “Pastor, YOU should talk to Brian!”
James sees Brian do something he thinks is wrong, so James makes this request of me. I tell James to go directly to Brian based on:
- Matthew 18:15 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
- Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
Neither verse encourages people to first go to their pastor. Instead, the verses instruct Christians to go to each other. Matthew 18:15 gives one reason with the words “between you and him alone.” In case the person repents, God desires to keep knowledge of the sin to the fewest number of people. Including even the pastor.
I might also add the verses don’t mention age or maturity. The words “you who are spiritual” is a way to refer to believers, not ultra-mature believers. Sometimes when I’ve told people they should go to the person, they say something along the lines of, “But I haven’t been a Christian long enough.”
There are only two situations where age matters:
- If Brian is still under his parents’ authority it would be appropriate for James to speak to Brian’s parents.
- If Brian is much older than James, it might be appropriate for James to encourage someone older to speak to Brian. I base this on: 1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father [and] older women as mothers.