Alright, we have all been there, when a Christian around us says or does something that goes against what we feel is right, but depending on what it is, we don’t always know how to respond. Do we call them out on the spot, speak to them one on one, or pray for them when we are alone and in private–just what do we do? Since Jesus was the ultimate model for how to act, what did he do when people did things that contradicted God’s character or perfect knowledge?
Do We Really Live As Jesus Did When It Comes To Confrontation?
The intent of this article is not to create an environment of conflict and negativity, but one of open discussion, without judgment, born of complete love for one another
Despite what people often hear, and teach, we are instructed to speak to other Christians with humility, honesty, and love when we see things that are not in line with the Bible and/or God’s character
Jesus and the apostles all taught that we are to approach one another if we see Christians stumble or teach incorrect things, but for some reason this has been lost in the church today as people are so used to being approached in condemnation and judgment, not love and a peaceful heart, that they have gone to the other extreme and now do not want to discuss missteps at all, and sometimes even claim that it is sinful to talk with other people about these types of things
This is one of the most powerful lies the enemy has seeded within the body of Christ as it keeps people in a place of lowered maturity, and contradicts the life Jesus led, as well as the wisdom he taught
If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him”
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God”
With this in mind, it is important to understand how important accountability is for the health of our souls, as our standing with God hangs in the balance of every decision we make, and having people around us who encourage us, out of love, towards righteousness and accurate theology is always a good thing!
The most important point however, is that we are supposed to be able to talk honestly with each other, especially about sin, but we are not to take negative action against anyone unless they willingly, and repeatedly, ignore warnings or attempts to be brought to the truth of righteousness
To be clear, the Bible states there is a line to be drawn for Christians who willingly reject the truth and continue to lead lives of sin, but we are to always show mercy and patience for those who are truly seeking to change their lives despite any stumbles along the way (as noted above in the statement “if he repents, forgive him”)
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you”
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God
The truth is, it takes a strong, loving, and spiritually mature person to be able to speak to others about tough topics, and quite honestly, not all of us are able to have every conversation, but we can have some!
With that said…
Sensitivity Training 101
When I was younger, I used to be a very defensive, angry individual who carried a lot of emotional baggage from when I was a child, because of this latent anger, as I continued to mature, it was difficult to learn how to control my emotions when someone hurt my feelings
Oh, and did I mention I was insecure?
Well, I was!
And not just a little bit either, the slightest thing could potentially set me off, which was really crippling as it often blinded me from seeing the truth in a lot of situations, and I often completely misinterpreted things people said or blew them so far out of proportion that it created a lot of imagined offenses that people never meant
“You look really happy today, what is the occasion?”
“Oh, thank you, I feel pretty good… wait, what did you call me?”
If I felt judged, scrutinized, belittled, made fun of, not good enough, or I just didn’t like someone and didn’t want to look bad or weak in front of them, I would usually take an incredibly aggressive, defensive tone and attitude that put people exactly where I was: on the verge of a fight!
Basically, I had an incredibly precarious chip on my shoulder that a kitten sneezing on the other side of a room could have knocked off
As you can imagine, unintentionally bringing this type of insecure, self-centered attitude into a conversation about someone else’s sin or errant theology usually caused things to blow up in my face, and it usually did not go well for people when they tried to speak to me about similar topics
As funny as this exaggerated case is, a lot of people out there are insecure and don’t like to feel judged or looked down on
I know, totally shocking!
Even though our intentions may be good, we sometimes forget to thoroughly consider other people’s feelings when we approach some conversations, even though we are trying to help
This is often because we get blinded by our own fears of rejection when we approach people, which is pretty ironic and would be funny if it didn’t cause so many fights, ie: two insecure, nervous people talking about sensitive topics usually does not result in a positive or constructive conversation
Because of this, we should try to be as calm and sensitive to the other people as possible, but remain firm and deliver a message, with love, that is gentle when necessary and sincere, but never watered down
If we cannot remain open and calm, our desire to have a helpful conversation may backfire and end up turning the other person away
However, despite the “sunshine and sparkles” approach to problem solving, there are also cases when a more bold, challenging approach is necessary
Dun dun dunnn…
One Lump Or Two?
There are always going to be situations where people do or say things that contradict God’s character or teach incorrect theology which can cause us to get upset, angry, sad, or whatever (dude, “whatever” is the worst!), and even though we can’t control what people around us do, we can control how we respond
As stated in the scriptures above, we are supposed to go to one another if we see certain things happening, and we should follow Jesus’ example when he squared off against the money changers in the temple if things are really out of control–but we should not sin, even if we are outraged!
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold
For example,when Jesus went tropical (ie: bananas) on the money changers who were selling things in the temple, but he did not do anything sinful in the process
However, it is important to understand what Jesus was really getting upset at, which was that he found it personally offensive that people would show such a lack of respect for God’s house and reputation
…for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me
In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me“
During all of this, Jesus never lost control of his words or his actions, and even though he didn’t do anything that was sinful, he was more assertive and aggressive than most of us can even imagine, ie: he flipped over tables like he was in the wild wild west!
To put this in context, imagine if we went to church one day and saw someone performing self-centered, prideful worship music which made us so upset that we got up on stage in the middle of them playing, physically yanked them off, then kicked them out of the service because they lacked respect for God
I know people being prideful during worship has *never* happened in church before (/eyeroll), but can you imagine responding to this like Jesus responded to the merchants in the temple?
Would doing this be wrong to do?
Think of it this way, if the temple was run by godly priests, there is no way Jesus would have to be the one cleaning up, the priests would have already done it
Just like a lot of modern churches, the priests were either okay with the merchants (or whatever the issues happen to be) or they were too weak to do anything about them!
Know When To Hold ‘Em, When To Fold ‘Em, And When To Start Upending Furniture
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger
As part of our growth, we should know when to respond gently to contradictions of God’s character and reputation, and when to be less confrontational and more discrete about problem solving with Christians
But how do we know when to react strongly and when to be gentle?
Based on Jesus’ examples, we should be aware of two main cases that are cause for tough action:
- If someone is doing something sinful in public that would damage God’s reputation
- If someone is teaching people incorrect theology or providing guidance which contradicts God’s truth or wisdom that will lead people astray
In both of these cases, we should feel a burning desire to want to step in and provide direction to the truth, but before doing so, we should be aware of the intentions of the people who are doing things incorrectly, as Jesus was either tame or ferocious depending on the hearts of the people he was addressing, ie: if someone was knowingly doing something wrong or wicked, he drop-kicked them right in the face, but if they were making innocent or well-intended errors, he was much more gentle
However, in all cases, Jesus always spoke firmly when it came to discussing theology as these were the words of life that guided people towards salvation, and were not matters of opinion or personal interpretation
To illustrate this, here are some examples of Jesus in both types of scenarios
Jesus going to town on people who knowingly did and taught bad things:
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks
You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”
(This one is interesting as Peter was chastising Jesus for speaking about the fulfillment of God’s plan, but Jesus basically told him to shut up right in front of everyone–awkwaaard!)
Jesus correcting people who said and did incorrect things, but were motivated by good intentions:
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 10: 17-23
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem”
Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth”
In Going To One Another, We Should Always Be Humble, And Always Be Prepared To Be Proven Wrong
Jesus was amazing for knowing when to speak sternly and when to speak gently to people, but just like how Peter rebuked Jesus out of good intentions only to get told off himself, we should always have a mind and heart that is prepared for any type of outcome to the situation, as we may not always be right, and someone’s responses may make us understand that there is more to a conversation than just the point of view we brought into it–go figure!
When in doubt, just keep things to private conversations as people are much less defensive, and we are too, when it is in a small group setting rather than the public eye
Also, if we are going into a conversation expecting that we can turn someone away from, or to, something we are discussing, we should also have the same level of open-mindedness we want them to have when listening to our ideas as well since we aren’t perfect, and we may be on our way to having a “Peter moment” without even knowing it!