But if confrontation is necessary, how should we proceed? During my research for this post, I was amazed to realize just how much guidance is offered on this issue through God's Word. God clearly knows that relationships can get messy, and He graciously gives us clear instructions for how to confront our Christian brothers and sisters.
Here are five guidelines taken from Scripture to use when confronting someone you love.
Make sure it matters
When it comes to relationships, the stakes are simply too high to use confrontation without caution. That's why I spent so much time outlining the biblical evidence for when to confront. Honestly, I was more interested in subtly pointing you toward discovering when not to confront your friends. Some fights are simply best left unfought.
Second Timothy 2:23 puts it this way: "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels."
Did Paul say it clearly enough? If not, famous western author Louis L'Amour said it this way: "Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut." Paul and Louis are making the same point. There are some words, especially those that have the potential to be hurtful or cause arguments, that are best left unspoken.
If you're not sure how to know if a confrontation is worth it, check out point #2.
Pray before you confront
Girls come to me all the time wondering how to handle a difficult situation with a friend. I usually ask, "Have you prayed about it?" They look down, shuffle their feet, and usually say something like, "Yeah ... uh ... a little," or "No, not really."
Praying about a potential conflict may seem like a simple solution to a complex problem. But prayer has power that our words to each other never will.
Let's revisit James 5:16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
Prayer leads to healing, and God's Word promises that our prayers have power to effect change. Don't head into confrontation without blanketing that conflict in prayer.
Follow the Matthew 18 model
Matthew 18:15–17 says, "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."
After carefully considering the issue and praying through it, if it remains clear that there is sin in your friend's life worth confronting, follow these steps.
- Go to your friend one-on-one, and talk through the issue privately.
- If she does not listen, go back with the help of one or two additional Christian friends.
- If she does not listen, enlist the help of a church leader. Your pastor or youth pastor are the most logical participants in this step.
- If she does not listen, put some distance in the relationship. Did Jesus love pagans and tax collectors? You betcha! (In fact, He still does.) Did He shun them and have nothing to do with them? Nope, but they weren't His BFF's. If you've followed the steps presented in Matthew 18 and your friend continues to hold on to her sin, some space would be wise. But I would encourage you to continue to pray for her to change her life and repent.
That's enough to chew on today. I'll wrap up this conversation in tomorrow's post. Be sure to check back then to see the final two guidelines for how to confront a friend.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Have you ever confronted a friend? Did you do it well or not? In hindsight, what mistakes can you see that you made? What advice would you give other readers who are considering confronting a friend?