I have lived a long grateful life for all the ways God has taught me. He has had a LOT of work to do in me and He is not finished yet! Here’s what I have learned so far. As a leader in the church, I cannot recall anyone saying, “I love to confront people.” We who have grown up with the teachings of Jesus, knowing we are not perfect, are cautious. Jesus said, “Do not judge”, so we are careful (or should be) with what we say in our words and body language to others. For me, I would rather lift people up with encouraging words than to tell them of behaviors that are not good for their growth. But sometimes, because we have gone through the same learning experiences, God calls us to confront. If this is hard, it should be.
There is a difference between criticizing and confronting. We are not called to be critical of each other, nitpicking each other’s faults. Paul speaks of the harm of critical behaviors in his teachings to the church. (See Colossians 3). Yes, criticizing is easy and must be avoided at all costs, but the ministry of confrontation is hard and necessary. To confront is agonizing to the caring heart; but as a leader, when God’s Spirit leads you to tell another of behaviors that detract from their spiritual growth and lead them to hurting others in the Body, you must. I’ve discovered that God has a way of calling us to confront a person who has the same issue we have had to overcome in our own lives, so the lesson is more valid. Mm. Let’s pause and think about that for a moment.
Paul was called to confront the Body of believers about behaviors unbecoming to Christ. Paul cared enough to confront, not for his own power or prestige, not to lord over them in Pharisaical fashion that he knew in his former life, but with a Spirit of Love, the love of Christ in him. His “gain” was to bring them to a greater understanding of what becoming like Jesus is and what that looks like as we relate to each other in the Body. This is the motivation—the great love that we have for Jesus and the Body of Christ—his church. Paul was the ordained, a called apostle sent with authority, full of the Spirit of love for God’s people, to do what God gave him to do.
When behaviors hurt, distract and cause the Body of Christ to stray, leaders with authority must care enough to confront, carefully guided by God, motivated by the Love of Christ for the Body. This was Paul. Paul is the example of keeping life real, healthy, growing in Christ, in Jesus Name, for His glory.
CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT
2 Corinthians 7, The Message
With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.
More Passionate, More Responsible
2-4 Trust us. We’ve never hurt a soul, never exploited or taken advantage of anyone. Don’t think I’m finding fault with you. I told you earlier that I’m with you all the way, no matter what. I have, in fact, the greatest confidence in you. If only you knew how proud I am of you! I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles.
5-7 When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn’t settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn’t relax because we didn’t know how it would turn out. Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the true reassurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!
8-9 I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.
10 Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
11-13 And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter. My primary concern was not for the one who did the wrong or even the one wronged, but for you—that you would realize and act upon the deep, deep ties between us before God. That’s what happened—and we felt just great.
13-16 And then, when we saw how Titus felt—his exuberance over your response—our joy doubled. It was wonderful to see how revived and refreshed he was by everything you did. If I went out on a limb in telling Titus how great I thought you were, you didn’t cut off that limb. As it turned out, I hadn’t exaggerated one bit. Titus saw for himself that everything I had said about you was true. He can’t quit talking about it, going over again and again the story of your prompt obedience, and the dignity and sensitivity of your hospitality. He was quite overwhelmed by it all! And I couldn’t be more pleased—I’m so confident and proud of you.
FOLLOW UP WITH ENCOURAGING WORDS
A great leader learns to reward what you want repeated. I learned this as a first grade teacher. When good behaviors were displayed, I talked about it so all could hear. The child-like faith first graders had in me as their leader, knowing how much I truly cared for their well-being, followed my lead with more positive words and behaviors for each other. Later in years, when God called me from teaching to full time ministry in His church, this same principle of loving care and positive confrontation with follow up of encouraging words was beneficial to the growth of believers in the Body of Christ.
What Paul teaches works! Care enough to confront, led by God, but timing is everything—God’s timing with His Spirit of Love in us. Lay down the urge to merely criticize. Critical words stunt our growth. Prayerful, caring, loving, private confrontation, leads to growth.
Whew, what a lesson in realizing the difference in our hearts, minds and souls between merely criticizing that stirs up trouble and loving confrontation that builds us and helps us to grow up in you, becoming more like you, behaving as you want us to behave. Thank you for making us stop and think, evaluate and learn. Help us be careful and considerate, overlooking faults and irritations, forgiving each other and loving each other like you love us. None are perfect. All have sinned and fall short. Thank you for your perfect forgiveness. Thank you for confronting me.
In Jesus Name, Amen