Many people cringe when they hear the word “confrontation.” Some say they prefer surgery to having to confront someone. You also have the other end of the spectrum—the person who is always ready to sniff out sin and get in someone’s face about it. As Christians, it’s very important to have a biblical view of confrontation.
A Biblical Definition of Confrontation
A biblical definition of confrontation is having a face-to-face encounter with someone in order to bring biblical truth to bear on an area of concern. This is to be done with humility and motivated by love for God and love for the person being confronted. We are to speak the truth in love to glorify God and benefit the person.
Why Should We Confront?
We all fall short of the glory of God, and many times we don’t even see the sin that has us trapped (1 John 1:8). The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
These verses make it clear that rebuking and correcting are to be taken seriously, practiced regularly, and done for the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom.
When we confront, we’re demonstrating love for God and obedience to Him. We’re also demonstrating love for the person. We’re more concerned about honoring God and the spiritual well-being of the other person than we are about our own comfort. When we’re reluctant to confront we sometimes rationalize and justify with thoughts like: What if she gets mad? What if I hurt his feelings? What if she doesn’t like me anymore? This reveals what we’re truly worshiping—the love and acceptance of others. When we confront, we have to be willing to risk the person’s rejection or anger for the sake of God’s honor.
How We Should We Confront
Our goal should not be to inflict pain or seek revenge. Our goal is to honor God in everything we say and do, including confronting someone. Start by praying diligently for your own heart as well as the other person’s heart before confronting, and pray diligently after. Trust God to help you, knowing He will give you the grace you need to obey Him. Trust also that He will work in the heart of the other person.
Galatians 6:1 says that if we see a brother or sister who is caught in a sin, we should restore him or her gently. Restoration starts with loving confrontation. We need to be willing to go to this person and show him his fault (Matt. 18:15). I’m not advocating becoming this person’s personal conscience or playing the junior Holy Spirit. But sin that is damaging the person’s testimony as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and is clearly in violation of God’s Word, should be confronted firmly but with gentleness and respect.
Start by asking questions rather than assuming you know exactly what’s going on. Proverbs 18:13 tells us to listen first, then answer. If you’re concerned about something you see in a person’s life, explain what you see and ask for help to understand what’s happening. Do this with humility, not with a self-righteous, judgmental attitude. When we go with a humble attitude, we’re demonstrating that we’re fully aware we don’t have it all together either and we need help just as much as them. We’re just one unworthy servant trying to help another unworthy servant glorify God.
Confronting an unbeliever about their sin affords this person an opportunity to seek God’s forgiveness. In the case of child sexual abuse, confronting the perpetrator can bring reconciliation—with God and the one sinned against. (If this is the situation, please seek wise counsel on confronting a perpetrator.) View this as a golden opportunity to share the gospel with them. Explain how you’ve experienced God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ and how you desire that for them also. We can’t personally rescue people from hell, but we can point them to the One who makes forgiveness and salvation possible.
Points to Consider When Confronting
If we haven’t made it a habit to speak truthfully and lovingly to the people in our lives, practicing transparency and approachability, confrontation could seem very fearful. It’s important to focus on pleasing God rather than our feelings of fear. We have to set our hearts and minds on the things above rather than on the things of this earth (like our own comfort or ease).
The goal is to obey God by following His commands. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love, and Ephesians 4:29 instructs us to speak words that build up, not tear down. Our words should benefit the one listening. This doesn’t mean we should skirt around the issue to be confronted, avoiding calling sin sin. But it does mean that we speak the truth without compromise while at the same time not attacking the person.
Be prepared for unexpected responses. We have to keep our expectations in check. How we hope the person will respond can’t be the goal. We should be prepared for a response of anger or denial. We must leave the results up to God. A person’s initial response may be one of anger or hurt, but allow time for the Holy Spirit to work in his or her heart.
Confronting others is not always easy and can seem unkind. Yet, in reality, it’s a loving thing to do. We can follow Jesus’ example as He demonstrated honor for His Father when He confronted while on earth. Lovingly confronting, rebuking, and correcting demonstrates we are living for the King and the Kingdom. In all things, may God be glorified!
Question for Reflection
How have you seen God’s grace in situations where you’ve had to confront someone?
Bev Moore is on the counseling staff at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN. She is married to George and they have two grown sons. She co-authored In the Aftermath, Past the Pain of Childhood Sexual Abuse.