by Andy Constable
One of my biggest struggles in ministry is having ‘confrontational’ conversations with people. I find it almost unnatural to broach difficult conversations and offer biblical rebuke. In particular I find it hard to confront people on their sin issues. This is an area that I’m sure many Christians struggle with. We live in a Christian culture that shies away from confrontation and tends toward being polite. However, this is an area that I have been addressing because it’s so pivotal in the Christian life and its particularly important for working in ministry. How can we be better at biblically confronting one another?
Firstly, we need to remember why we are to rebuke one another. As Paul Tripp writes: “Rebuke is the word the Bible uses for bringing truth to where change is needed…” As Christians we are called to confront one another because change is needed in our lives. We are not the finished article yet. We are saved and totally free from the condemnation of the law but we are still growing in holiness. And the problem is that as Christians we are blind to our own blindness. In other words, we find it difficult to see our own sin. We enjoy pointing out the faults of others but very rarely our own and if we do its usually out of self-pity. We need Christians with humble love to show us where our sin is to help us to become more like Christ. Confrontation is therefore is a loving thing.
Secondly, we need to see that confronting one another is Biblical. Jesus constantly rebuked his disciples throughout the gospels as they failed to understand who he was and what he came to do. Paul calls pastors to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage— with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2) There has been an avoidance of biblical confrontation because of an over-emphasis on the love of God at the expense of the holiness of God. This has led to a low view of sin and a high view of acceptance as we are. But As Christians we are called to reflect our heavenly Father in his perfectness. Jesus says in Matthew 5:36: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Humble, loving confrontation is needed because our sinful selves like to hide our imperfect nature, but we are called to move in truth towards holiness. This is something that Jesus practiced and Paul calls us to. If we do not confront then we will not see any change in our ministries because people will just go round thinking everything is fine. Our lives are not perfect, but broken, and we need to be put back together by the truth of God word’s and his sanctifying spirit.
Thirdly, we need to battle with our fear of man. The reason we don’t like to offer words of rebuke is because we don’t know if the person will take it well. We don’t know if it will affect our relationship with the person. At the heart of it is a fear of not being liked. The Bible calls this the fear of man. This is when we care more about the opinions of man rather than fearing God. We crave human attention and love and so that stops us having the difficult conversations that need to be had. We live in a Christian culture in churches that puts a high views on being polite and tolerant. But, often, the Bible is very straight down the line. If we fail to confront then we show a lack of love for people and God. In fact a lack of confrontation shows us that we have too much love for ourselves rather than the contrary. The first and greatest commandment is: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength.” This is what needs to motivate us when we are struggling to confront. We need to repent of our love of man’s opinions and bow to God’s.
I tell people who come to Niddrie that it’s a ‘blessing and a curse’. It’s a curse because we offer high accountability in which it’s very difficult to get away with anything. But it’s a blessing because you know that your soul is being looked after properly and that when you fall into sin that you will be confronted, picked up and pointed towards the gospel. This is so important because without confrontation we will struggle to grow in holiness! Let’s commit to love God more than man, see the importance of rebuking one another and grow in holiness as a community!