Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Confusion on Confrontation
The fundamental issue is that our goal should be that of correction and reconciliation; we are to win our brother, not drive them away (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13). We need to start with direct personal confrontation (Matthew 18:15). This does not mean to tell someone else or to try to get someone else to talk to them, but to go to them yourself. There is a reason for this. The goal is to restore the person (the word in Galatians 6:1 is used of setting a broken bone or mending a fishing net) and to restore the relationship. This may not be possible without explaining where you are coming from and perhaps instructing them in the issues. You also need to hear their defense; even if you cannot agree with it, you need to show them you have heard it. Also, if there is reconciliation they need to know you are reconciled and are not still angry with them behind their backs. None of this can be done through a third party. Now I do believe there is a place for invoking love covering a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). But if it is serious enough that it must be dealt with, it should be dealt with properly.
Also, it may be necessary to bring in witnesses, either to attest to their lack of repentance (Matthew 18:16) or to establish the fact of their actions (1 Timothy 5:19). Now these witnesses need to be two or three (Numbers 35:30) and to be open and public witnesses who can testify to the actual facts of the case. In the Old Testament the witnesses were to cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:7) and, if false, were liable to the punishment they tried to get imposed on the accused (Deuteronomy 19:15-19). No anonymous or second-hand witnesses should be accepted.
But everything must be done with gentleness (Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13). This does not mean we should ignore or minimize sin (1 Corinthians 5:1,2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6), but we must attempt to turn the sinner back to the right way. Even if the church is required to take the final step and exercise discipline (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:3-8), it should be done lovingly, with the hope for restoration (2 Thessalonians 3:14,15; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Confronting sin is a difficult task. It should not be undertaken lightly, but it is also dangerous to ignore, if it is necessary. We need to trust God to lead us in the right way to handle these situations. We also need to look to ourselves, that we are not drawn down into the errors of the people we are correcting (Galatians 6:1, Jude 22,23). But we must be careful to approach the situation in a Biblical manner if we hope to genuinely restore people.