Monday, September 13, 2010

Should I forgive or confront - or both?

When do you forgive and when do you confront? Do they go hand in hand? Can you forgive without confronting? Do you just forgive and let it go or is confrontation necessary every time for the sake of forgiveness?

Sometimes we overlook every offense because "love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). These are usually petty things. Some people confront everything because they believe the offender needs to be taught why he is wrong so he can correct his actions. What do we do? How do we (or should we) balance these? 1 Corinthians 5 tells us how Paul confronted the Corinthians for tolerating sin in the church. Should we confront EVERY infraction? Would this seem burdensome or even petty? Would people eventually hate to see us coming?

Ephesians 4:1-3 says we are to bear with one another (tolerance, forbearance). We should exercise grace with people, giving time for the Holy Spirit to work out matters in their lives. 1 Corinthians 13 says love isn't easily angered. If we confronted EVERY petty thing, we'd never do anything else. We must show tolerance whenever possible so the unity of the Spirit and peace will win out (1 Peter 2:21-25). Love really does cover a multitude of sins. We must exercise and extend grace.

Another principle in determining if you should confront is knowing who has been offended. If you are the only one that is injured, you can choose to forgive without confrontation. Lots of people in the Bible did this - Stephen (Acts 7:60), David (2 Samuel 16). Non-confrontation is not looking the other way nor is it being OK with sin. It is merely praying through and allowing the Holy Spirit time to work these issues out in a person's life. You keep an eye on the situation to see if it is getting better. If not, you must lovingly confront.

Now, if you know about or witness a serious offense against someone else, confrontation is most likely necessary. The Bible tells us we must not overlook the sins committed against others (Deuteronomy 16:20; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3). Also, if this person is habitual in a particular sin, confrontation is necessary.

Galatians 6:1-2 says it is our duty to confront in love. Our goal is to win our brother back, not to shove their wrongdoing in their face. We must always confront if the sin has the potential to harm the whole church or many people. We must always confront if the sin could ruin the reputation of the church or leadership in the church. Hebrews 12:15 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 are great references for this.

It is Biblical to discipline individuals who refuse to repent. This is the type of sin that affects the whole body. You confont in this situation because you are trying to preserve the purity of the Church body. Matthew 18 gives us the steps on how to do this.

If a relationship is broken (marriage, parent/child, friendship, etc.) confrontation is necessary. Reconciliation is the goal of confrontation. Luke 17:3 says we should rebuke a brother who has sinned. If they repent, we should forgive them. We should seek to mend relationships. The only exception is if a person goes through all the steps of Matthew 18 and the offender still refuses to repent and reconcile. Then the relationship will remain broken because of their actions (or I should say, lack of action).

Confrontation should always be done with love and with reconciliation in mind (Ephesians 4:13). It should never be done out of anger, spite or with a vengeful attitude. Before you confront someone you must have a loving attitude. A loving attitude begins with admitting your own sinfulness (Matthew 6:12). Look at your life to see what sins you are guilty of, both in general and in the circumstances surrounding the offense. Then, you must deal with them (Matthew 7:3-5). You should pray and ask God to reveal your sin before confronting. Only after you have dealt with your own sins can you lovingly confront someone else's sin. Don't be a plank-eye (Matthew 7:3-5). Always repent (if applicable) to the offender before pointing out their sins.

You also have to prepare your heart to listen to what the offender has to say. As James 1:19 says, we should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Give the offender a chance to explain themselves. Don't just assume they are in the wrong - it is possible you are wrong about them being wrong! Proverbs 18:13 says when we answer a matter before hearing it out, it is a folly and a shame to us. Be committed to understanding the person that has offended you, because you may be entirely wrong. Get your facts straight before you confront. Don't confront based upon generalities or hearsay. If you are wrong about the offender, you must go back to those who made the accusations and get the story straight - clearing the alleged offender's reputation.

You must make sure you also don't gossip about a situation before handling it. You should only involve the necessary people in the matter at hand. They should be people you seek for advice on how to handle the situation or those mature in the faith who will pray with you in the situation. Retelling the situation to others who are not involved or who cannot help or pray is wrong and sinful.

Be direct. Don't let much time pass before you confront. Don't confront in the middle of a prayer. Don't confront in a crowd. Don't confront by sending out subleminal messages through your preaching, teaching or conversations. Do it one on one - privately. If you have to bring someone else in (as a mediator) make sure they are mature in the faith and can speak truth to all parties involved.

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