When you become a Christian, it’s easy to believe that getting along with people will be a breeze, but the reality is we’re still human, and people are still aggravating sometimes. It can be difficult to handle confrontation while also showing others the love of Jesus.
How should Christians handle confrontation? Christians should handle confrontation with grace and truth, approaching their brothers and sisters using God’s Word, pointing them to Jesus, and forgiving them for any wrong committed. Confronting others should be a process of gentle correction filled with compassion as well as firmness.
Confronting others is a normal part of life, and not only for Christians. But, as Christians, we are meant to glorify God in all that we do, especially when it comes to the relationships in our lives. And chances are you have multiple relationships that require different strategies of confrontation in your life.
Here are some of those 8 strategies and things to avoid when handling confrontation:
1. Grace and Truth
The Bible says that Jesus is full of grace and truth, and all throughout the Gospels we can see how Jesus’ gracious and true voice forgave many and turned them away from their sins.
In the same way, we are called to love everyone, from our neighbor to our enemy, and extend grace to them.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.Proverbs 15:1 ESV
When our answers are soft, we are allowing the person we’re confronting to face their own shortcomings without wrath, but rather with grace.
Paul talks about this with the Colossians too and tells them why they should come to others full of graciousness.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.Colossians 4:6 CSB
When we are prepared to give an answer to anyone, including answers to those who want to know why we are confronting them, we can do so with speech seasoned like salt. Our graciousness will help others become more receptive to our feedback just like salt could make a meal better.
Now when talking about truth, Paul gets straight to the point and doesn’t back down or repress what’s right in Galatians when he rebukes Peter.
But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel,
I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?Galatians 2:11-14 ESV
Peter had been acting like a hypocrite, and what does Paul do? He calls him out in front of the whole church, including writing about it to the churches of Galatia.
Clearly, Paul wasn’t afraid to confront Peter and holds him accountable to the truth of the gospel.
If you want to learn more about confronting other Christians, I would highly recommend an enrichment course by Kenneth Ortiz entitled, “The Art of Discipleship.” He is a professor at my college and passionate about discipleship. In this course, he covers Christian confrontation.
2. Without Condemnation
Like Paul confronting Peter, this should be our heart as Christians when confronting our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our hearts should not be in a place of pride, condemning the person for doing something wrong, but rather it should be wanting to free our brother or sister from condemnation.
Peter was condemned by his sin of hypocrisy and leading others astray, not by Paul. He was not living worthy to the call of the gospel on the level Paul knew he was capable of, and because of this, Paul confronted him with buckets of truth and grace.
It may not sound like Paul was confronting Peter in grace, but receiving grace actually means receiving something that we don’t deserve.
Peter didn’t deserve to be set on the right path with Jesus, no one does, but Paul called Peter higher to the man he knew God wanted him to be, showing him grace by not condemning him but by opening his eyes to the truth.
It may be hard as Christians to accept the truth sometimes, but when it’s met with grace we can accept confrontation to become the people God wants us to be.
Even after this, Peter went on to serve Jesus, becoming the rock of His church and even writing two books of the Bible.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;James 1:19 ESV
When confronting other Christians, whether about a personal, spiritual, trivial or serious issue, let’s be intentional about understanding where they’re coming from and listen to their concerns as well.
We don’t want to be people constantly breathing down other’s necks, focused solely on perfection, but when there is an issue to bring up and correct, a lot of the time there’s something deeper going on with that person.
Jesus tells us to love others as ourselves, so how would we want to be confronted by another believer? We’d probably appreciate that person to be quick to listen to us and slow to anger, and in return, we’d also respond with peace and gentleness.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.Galatians 6:1 ESV
When I’m in a tough conversation with someone and confronting their sins or actions, I can get superheated and begin to lose control of my emotions.
You may feel this way too, but Jesus says that we have all of the fruits of the Spirit, so we can be watchful of ourselves by leaning into gentleness and self-control.
We can pray we wouldn’t need to be confronted for rash actions, but rather filled with God’s Spirit to confront and rebuke our fellow Christians.
When confronting someone, we should also be watchful of our motives. Are we confronting someone just because we want to be right, or because we love and care for them?
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.Philippians 2:3-4 CSB
Whenever Jesus or an apostle rebuked someone, their purpose was always to call the sin out of them and call them higher into the person they were meant to be.
As Christians, our hearts should be for the interests of others, loving them even more than ourselves and wishing to see them succeed. That is why we confront the people in our lives because we love them and want what’s best for them.
When we know that there is someone in our life who needs to be confronted about a certain issue, the first thing we can do is pray. We can pray that God gives us gracious and truthful words, as well as wisdom for what to say and how to say it.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.James 1:5 ESV
Prayer is having a conversation with God, asking and pouring out our hearts to Him, and then listening for a response. God will speak for you if you ask in Jesus’ name, and listen for His voice. Jesus knows it’s a tricky thing to confront someone in your life, so go to Him in prayer with all your concerns.
If the person you are confronting is willing and knows they need help improving an area of their life, don’t hesitate to pray with them.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.James 5:16 ESV
Christians should handle confrontation with prayer and confession. Confession frees people from the weight that holds them down, and this very weight may even be at the root of the issue that is being confronted.
When we pray, spiritual walls are being torn down.
As we approach our brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s fight for and with them on the battleground of prayer and seek healing for whatever they are struggling with.
Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy.John Piper
6. God’s Word
Another battle ground for Christians who are hoping to confront others with grace and truth is God’s Word.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14 CSB
God’s Word is the ultimate, higher truth and filled with wisdom for how to teach, reproof, and train others back towards the right path.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,2 Timothy 3:16 ESV
Confront people with truth, with God’s Word. Speak life over them and teach them through your actions and love what it means to live righteously with Jesus.
7. Another Believer
At times, the person you are trying to confront will be extremely defensive and won’t listen to your advice or correction. You know that it will be near impossible for them to realize the magnitude of their sin or their issue without the input of someone else in authority or someone whose opinion they respect.
This is why Jesus speaks about the power in numbers when it comes to correcting and praying for the person who has turned away.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence 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, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.Matthew 18:15-20 ESV
Jesus is among you when you pray with other believers. He’s always with you in fact, but there’s a certain type of power that comes when believers agree with you in prayer and correction.
Though there are many times when confrontation does work and leads the person to repentance, Jesus also does not sugarcoat how at other times you’ll have to see them as a Gentile or tax collector.
To refer to someone as a Gentile or tax collector meant that you would have no dealings with them. The Jews knew this and when Jesus said to distance yourself from the person who wouldn’t confess even to the authority and love of the church, then you had full permission to protect yourself from their hurtful choices.
Does this mean that we have to give up on them? Absolutely not. Jesus tells us to continue to ask in His name, and when we pray and seek the help of other believers, we are still working in the process of confronting that person, now it may look like confronting the spiritual battles they are going through.
Perhaps the most powerful thing we can do when confronting someone is to forgive them. No one will be willing to face their faults and correct them if they’re met with hostility and unforgiveness.
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.Colossians 3:13 ESV
Forgiving someone does not mean that we accept their sinful behavior and let them get away with it, no, it means we don’t hold them to their sin and condemn them for it.
Sure, we are called to confront and challenge their sinful ways, but as Christians, the greatest gift we have ever received is the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us, and because He has forgiven us, we can forgive others too.
Bless and Release
As I talked about in confronting someone with other believers, there comes a point where even then they will not repent and change their ways. This is when we are allowed to protect ourselves from their behavior and bless and release them.
As Christians, we are called to handle confronting others with love, not hate, so when we realize there is nothing more we can do other than pray, let’s trust God by blessing them and releasing them into His hands.
Why Confrontation Matters
Ultimately, we are not responsible for convicting others of their mistakes or sins, but we can confront them in a godly manner and call them higher to the people we know they are capable of being.
Confronting others matters because, without it, we would all be blind to our pitfalls and alone in our struggles. But because Jesus suffered for us, we can use confrontation as a tool to help guide people into a right relationship with Jesus.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.James 5:19-20 ESV
This is why confrontation is so important because when we are bold and call people up, they have the choice to repent and follow Jesus again. This is truly an amazing gift that Jesus calls us to steward well and when confronting believers is done right, we are part of their story of redemption and get to be used for God’s glory.
With this knowledge, Christians should handle confrontation by approaching the sin in people’s lives with grace, truth, understanding, and gentleness. With God’s Word, prayer, and forgiveness, confronting others doesn’t have to be something to dread, but rather something full of graciousness, genuine care, and love.