"Your Problem Is . . .": A Biblical Approach to Confrontation

Some people in the body of Christ, at least in their own minds, seem to have the gift of confrontation. These are the folks most other Christians try to dodge. However, sometimes they sneak up on one of their brothers or sisters and utter those dreaded works. “May I speak with you for a minute?” Two questions immediately arise in the affronted brother’s mind: (1) What have I done this time? (2) Why is he confronting me when he has problems with … ? Usually, the issues these “gifted” people deal with are frivolous. On top of that, they often have issues they need to deal with themselves.

In spite of its bad connotations, Christian confrontation is commanded in Scripture. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word confront “to cause to face or meet; as, to confront one with the proofs of his wrongdoing.” In spite of Cain’s words, believers are “their brother’s keeper” (Gen. 4:9).

Galatians 6:1 defines Christian confrontation as the practice of Spirit-filled believers going to an erring brother in love and helping him to get right with God. We can use this verse to formulate a biblical model for Christian confrontation. The verse provides qualifications for the confronter, the purpose of confrontation, and the spirit of confrontation.

Qualifications for the Confronter

The Holy Spirit makes clear who Galatians 6:1 is addressed to: “Brethren.” God is not merely speaking to pastors, deacons, or other church leaders. He is speaking to all believers. However, consider this caveat. The confronter must be “spiritual.” Galatians 5:16b pictures the person who is spiritual. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” He is one who “lives in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25) and is “led of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:18). Spirituality is evidenced by the presence of the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life (Gal. 5:22-23) and the absence of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).

We should ask the following questions before confronting a brother or sister in Christ. They are based on the fruit of the Spirit. If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” then the potential confronter needs to get things right with God before proceeding with the confrontation.

1. Do I love my brother? Do I care about the emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing of the one I feel led to confront? First Corinthians 13:1-3 shows that a loveless confrontation will irritate, not restore.

2. Does my life evidence joy and peace? Philippians 4:4-7 describes the joy and peace every believer ought to evidence. The person I confront ought not to be able to say, “I don’t want to be miserable like you.”

3. Am I patient, gentle, and willing to do whatever it takes to help my brother? Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is … longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Do I have this same patience and burden for the one I feel led to confront?

4. Do I believe God can change my brother’s life? Many times people say, “People like him don’t change!” In Matthew 17:19-21, the disciples couldn’t cast out a demon because of unbelief. Do I believe God can help the person I feel led to confront?

When I was a sophomore in college, the prayer captain in charge of my dorm room confronted me about an issue in my life. I melted as he spoke because I knew he walked with God and loved me. God calls spiritual believers to Christian confrontation. Spirituality is not a nebulous concept. It’s clearly defined in Galatians 5.

The Purpose of Confrontation

Confrontation is for the believer who is “overtaken in a fault” (Gal. 6:1). This is a brother who falls into a particular sin and is trapped in “the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7; 2 Tim. 2:26). Confrontation isn’t for someone who has deliberately embraced a life of sin. Those who embrace that kind of lifestyle are lost (Gal. 5:21).

Two men are hunting in the woods. One steps into a bear trap. Does his partner (1) shoot the man and put him out of his misery, (2) lecture the man about being more careful in the future, (3) ignore the problem and pray it will take care of itself, or (4) loose the man and tend to his wounds? Hopefully, the hunter will choose the last option. Likewise, when a believer who has been walking with God falls into Satan’s trap, fellow believers should “restore” him.

The word restore literally means “to set in joint,” to mend what has been broken or to repair. An old car is restored when its condition is the same as it was in the showroom. A person is restored when he returns to walking in the Spirit.

The first component of restoration is honesty. This truth is illustrated by Samuel with Saul (1 Sam. 15:22,23), Nathan with David (2 Sam. 12:9), and Paul with Peter (Gal. 2:11). In no uncertain terms, these men of God told the one they were confronting that he had sinned against God. The second component of restoration is a call to confession. First John 1:5-10 teaches that though Christians enjoy walking in the light (vv. 5-7), they sin (vv. 8, 10). This passage also teaches that Christians are restored to walking in the light by agreeing with God that their action was sin: confession (v. 9).

All true believers have a desire to walk in the light. The confronter helps a fallen brother to fulfill his desire to be right with God. Matthew 18:17 b is clear concerning one who does not desire restoration: “But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” We an assume that the person who has no desire to repent is lost.

The Spirit of Confrontation

The confronter’s manner should be meek. The opposite of meekness is wrath, passion, or a sense of triumph. Sadly, some confront a fallen brother loudly and proudly to buoy their own reputation as a “Bible-believing (fill in the blank).” This attitude is sin and should be avoided.
“The spirit of meekness” involves gentleness, kindness, compassion, mourning over sin, and tenderness. This spirit is commanded in Galatians 5:26: “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Ephesians 4:15 commands the believer to speak “the truth in love.” If we do not have love, then we should not confront. L. Pat Martin reminds us, “The Holy Spirit who is the Convicter and Confronter is also the Comforter.”

Why should confrontation be done “in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1)? At this point, Galatians 6:1 brings to mind the iniquities of the confronter. “Consider thyself” is an admonition to look carefully and critically inside oneself. When the confronter takes this look, he recalls Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Everyone has fallen short of God‘s expectations at one point or another. This realization brings the humble acknowledgment that the confronter is not blameless and struggles with sin himself. Hence, the confrontation becomes one sinner saved by grace confronting another sinner saved by grace.

“Lest thou also be tempted” is a reminder that what happened to the confronted could also happen to the confronter. First Corinthians 10:12 warns, “Wherefore Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” The person I help restore today might be used of God to help restore me in the future. The question is, “How do I want to be treated?” Meekness ought to characterize Christian confrontation.

Concluding Thoughts

The “gifted” confronters mentioned earlier are on the endangered species list. Those precious old ladies who used to make sure the girls’ hemlines were just right are dying off. The older men who used to ask, “How many souls did you win this week?” are crossing chilly Jordan. Rising up in their places are those who are never willing to confront an erring brother about anything. Can we say we love another believer but are unwilling to warn him about the dangers of his sin? Absolutely not! Proverbs 27:6 reminds us that the wounds of a friend are faithful. It’s better to wound the pride of a brother by telling him he is wrong than to allow him to live unchallenged in his sin.

Yet sometimes confrontation does more harm than good because of the way in which someone carries it out. A former assistant pastor was emotionally devastated after his senior pastor confronted him. He wrote to me, “The reason for the hurt was not necessarily ‘what’ was done but the manner in which it was done.” He felt “as if there were ‘no second chances.’” He ended his letter by saying, “If it had been done Scripturally in the first place, maybe … I would still be ministering fully as I know I should be and am called to do.”

A position of authority does not negate a person’s responsibility to follow the scriptural guidelines for confrontation. Pastors, parents, and bosses have lost the respect of many by failing to apply these principles to confrontational situations. The Bible is clear: Pastors are not to abuse those whom God has placed under them (1 Pet. 5:3), parents are not to provoke their children to wrath (Eph. 6:4), and bosses are never to threaten or to scare those who work under them (Eph. 6:9). We do away with these authoritarian traits when we apply God’s principles of Christian confrontation to everyday situations.

Having established the need for Christian confrontation as defined in Galatians 6:1, we must now ask ourselves these questions: Do I meet the qualifications necessary to help restore a brother in sin? Am I walking in the Spirit? If I can honestly answer “Yes” to these questions, then I should pray for opportunities to be an agent of restoration. For qualified restorers, opportunities for deployment are readily available.

Christian confrontation is the practice of Spirit-filled believers going to erring brothers or sisters in love and encouraging them to reinvigorate their walk with God. Confrontation is a command for all believers, and we must carry it out with love and with the humble acknowledgment that the next one who needs to be restored might be … me.

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