When is it right to name and shame?

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What does God say about naming and shaming? When is it correct to call someone out for his sins? Who has the authority to do so?

The most obvious answer is government. When a person has committed a crime, law enforcement arrest him, the person will face trial, and his name becomes public knowledge. For he (a ruler, i. e. the government) is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Another authority is the church. Most disagreements between believers can be resolved one-on-one, but if that doesn’t work, God has provided a process whereby the church can help. This is how it works: But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matthew 18:16-17). In the sad case that a dispute cannot be resolved, the matter goes before the church. At that time, the problem is public knowledge.

The Apostle Paul admonished, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17).

Paul called out several, by name, for their sins. Note that these instances are actually the Word of God, not only a record of Paul being upset because someone disagreed with him.  

  • I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord (Philippians 4:2).
  • Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:19-20).
  • This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:15).
  • And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:17-18).
  • For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica (2 Timothy 4:10a).
  • Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works (2 Timothy 4:14).

If a person who calls himself a brother in Christ lives in sin, we are not supposed to be close buddies with him. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat (1 Corinthians 5:11).

Who should be named and shamed?

  • Those who cause divisions in the church.
  • People who say they’re Christians, live in sin, and will not forsake it.
  • Brothers who have not responded favorably to church discipline.
  • Criminals.
  • False teachers.

It’s sad anyone would ever need to be named, but there are times when it’s appropriate for good men to warn others of disobedient brethren, heresies, and criminals. Unfortunately, this isn’t always done in Christian circles, resulting in the people in churches not being warned. They don’t recognize the wolves among them.

Jesus said, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15).

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17).