Christian unity is a beautiful thing. But what happens when you aren’t so unified? What do you do when someone hurts you, wrongs you, or attacks you? I’m not talking about physically; that simply requires a call to 9-1-1. I’m talking about verbally, emotionally, or any other kind of malicious attack, whether they know it or not.
Learning to confront someone about a sin is one of the best things I ever learned, but I’ve found it’s not common knowledge. So allow me to very simply break it down, and Lord willing, this will be a help to you and your relationships. But first, let’s recognize what this is and isn’t.
What this IS NOT for:
simple Mistakes. If someone makes a mistake at work, you simply show them where they went wrong, how they can do better, and move on. No need for a big production.
Disagreements over opinions. If you feel the need to confront someone because they like the New England Patriots and not the Buffalo Bills, then you’ve got the wrong subject. Opinions needs fall into the category of “agree to disagree.”
When someone does a hurtful wrong against you. I’m talking about an email meant to attack you, an hurtful word, an inappropriate action, an item stolen. Use discernment about what you think someone needs confronting about.
When someone is living with a sinful pattern in their life. Confrontation isn’t really about you, it’s about them. The examples in Scripture actually talk about confronting those living in sin in order to help them. This is the process to help your fellow Christ-follower.
How to confront someone. Matthew 18, Jesus gives use three levels of confrontation.
1) 1-on-1. You talk with that person privately. Make sure it’s discreet, and make sure you know what you’re going to say.
2) 2-on-1. If the person refuses to listen to you in this matter, then you bring in a third party. Make sure this is someone that should be involved. For example, your supervisor, church elder, deacon, pastor, etc.
3) Many-on-1. The final stage of confrontation is the entire church or assembly against the one person. This might sound harsh, but if they haven’t responded to the first two levels, then it’s very necessary.
Even when Christ confronts sin, the message is covered by hope.
The key to this is doing these in order. Most people want to skip to Level 2 because it’s easier to gang up on someone. But if that was the best way, wouldn’t Jesus have said so? Follow Christ’s teachings, and stick to the levels.
We can all learn from Christ’s confrontation of the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3. His pattern for 5 of the 7 churches is to give a compliment and then confront the sin (E.g. Rev. 2:19-20). He points out the positive attribute, but doesn’t hold back from sharing the truth of needed growth.
You might be thinking “But isn’t that just some salesman tactic, or manipulation?” Actually, it’s far more than that. It’s a glimmer of hope in the midst of hearing a difficult message. Even when Christ confronts sin, the message is covered by hope. Hope of coming off this destructive path. Hope of a brighter future. Hope of a renewed relationship among His bride, the Church. This brings me to the final and most important ingredient of biblical confrontation: Love.
The entire point of confronting others is restoration. It’s about life-change. It’s about hope. And that cannot be carried out unless you confront others in love. Paul said if we don’t have love, we’re just a big noise (1 Corinthians 13:1,13).
So consider these steps the next time someone has a sin against you. Consider the commands of Christ. I challenge you to follow them and see the difference it makes.