A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. (Proverbs 11:13, NKJV)
This proverb does not endorse covering up sin. We are counseled by divine wisdom not to be a rumormonger, slanderously traveling about spreading tales about others. “But, it’s the truth!,” some rationalize as they betray trust and advertise a person’s private struggles. Perhaps it is true. If so, have you gone to that person with meekness to help them in their time of need (Galatians 6:1)? Talebearers do not “bear one another’s burdens,” they bring havoc and heartache by casting a person’s burdens to the wind (Galatians 6:2). Woe to the one who tries to promote themselves by spreading harmful messages that embarrass and hurt others. We must be of “a faithful spirit” (trustworthy disposition) when handling information about others. Don’t be a talebearer. Know when to keep a matter private. Doing so is a mark of wisdom.
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. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15–17, NKJV)
Matthew 18:15-17 does not address how to deal with the public sins of Christians. Galatians 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 5 give us examples of such public sins, and how to handle them, as we attempt to save the lost and protect the saved. We misapply Matthew 18:15-17 when we demand following its procedure when such public sins occur. This passage is the Lord’s prescription for saving souls when personal, private sin takes place. The Lord’s teaching is not about getting rid of some one, but about saving the soul of the one who has gone astray (Galatians 6:1-2). When we are approached about sinning against a brother or sister in Christ, may we humbly hear the evidence, and repent of every transgression. And, if we are sinned against, may we follow the Lord’s instructions given here, to save one who has gone astray.
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. (Matthew 18:15, NKJV)
The sin under consideration in this verse is personal in nature (“against you”). Its private nature is necessarily implied in the instruction Jesus gives, “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” The sin is not generally known, and is to be privately discussed. Christ’s command also implies the one who sinned may not even know he has sinned against his brother, since Jesus said to “tell him his fault…” The manner of this initial discussion is informative and persuasive. That is, the sinner needs to “hear” that he has sinned, as well as how to remedy it through repentance (Acts 8:22). Damage is done when private sins are made public. Gossip, backbiting and rumor-mongering may begin from a failure to keep private sins, private. Remember, the goal is to “seek the one that is straying,” not slay him because he has wandered from the Shepherd (Matt. 18:12).