Confronting people is necessary but never easy. The fear of pain and broken relationships can cause the best of us to avoid it at all costs. What if the confronted person becomes offended, lashes out, leaves our organization, or severs his or her relationship with us? What if our ministry loses members, followers, or financial supporters? Although there may be a great deal at stake, true leadership requires the courage to stand up and speak out in God’s timing.
Jesus was not a confrontation coward. Unlike many of us who confront too much, too little, or not at all, Jesus knew how and when to confront. When the Pharisees tried to trap Him with the issue of the adulterous woman, He told them, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” When the money-changers bought and sold in the temple, Jesus turned the tables over and chased them out with a whip. Time after time — from the temple leaders and Pharisees to His family and disciples — Jesus was willing to carryout righteous confrontation. In his book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand, Paul Tripp puts it this way:
“From God’s perspective, the only reason we confront one another is that we love the Lord and want to obey Him. Our failure to confront one another biblically must be seen for what it is: something rooted in our tendency to run after God-replacements. We confront un-biblically (or not at all) because we love something more than God. Perhaps we love our relationship with this person so much that we don’t want to risk it. Perhaps we prefer to avoid the personal sacrifices and complications that confrontation may involve. Perhaps we love peace, respect, and appreciation more than we should.”
With rampant scandals in the Body of Christ — most visibly with high profile pastors and televangelists — it’s a wonder that we can remain passive observers. These high dramas reveal the need for accountability and preventative confrontation. Confronting is simply caring enough to prevent spiritual, mental, or physical harm to those we love and are responsible for. “Preventative confrontation” is confronting at the onset of something that looks suspicious. Confrontation must not only be shaped by biblical goals, but also by biblical methods. When Paul instructs members of the Body of Christ to minister to one another, he states, “Speak the truth [content] in love [method] (Ephesians 4:15, NLT).” Love that is not guided by truth ceases to be love because it is not guided by God’s agenda. God is love, and God is Truth.
Scripture teaches us how to engage in interactive confrontation. In the Word, the confronter stands alongside the person, helping him or her see the truth — telling stories, asking questions, drawing out answers, and then calling for a response. Christ often employed this method of confrontation in His parables (Luke 7:36-50; Luke 14:1-14). We, too, can utilize the biblical approach to confrontation by following these steps:
In Jeremiah 17:9, we learn that our hearts are intrinsically deceitful, desperately wicked, and beyond full understanding. As a result, before we confront someone, we must first realize our own sinful and lost condition (Psalms 14:1-3; Romans 3:10-12). Never confront someone with a lofty, self-righteous attitude.
Maintaining a “keeping it real” ministerial approach will go a long way. In a world of pretension and dishonesty, people crave transparency. Therefore, it is beneficial for ministers to share some of their personal struggles and mishaps with wisdom. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what should be openly shared with others, and the most appropriate time for that disclosure. Sometimes a rebuke can be better received from someone who is open and honest about his or her own shortcomings.
It is always wise to pray and investigate a situation before making assumptions. Don’t confront before being led by the Holy Spirit and verifying your “hunch.” Paranoia is not discernment, and a “hunch” can sometimes mislead us.
Biblical confrontation is about reconciliation, restoration, and helping another person renew his or her commitment to Christ. If there is anything else motivating your desire to confront, you need to go back to step 1.