Speaking the Truth in Love: Biblical Confrontation
The Big Idea: Learn biblical principles of mutual confrontation in love. (Excerpted from Spiritual Friends.)
Biblical confrontation has earned a “bum rap.” To correct that, consider the following biblical definition based upon 2 Timothy 2:25.
• Confrontation shows people how they are intoxicated by the lies of the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
In 2 Timothy 2:25, Paul commands Timothy to “gently instruct (confront, correct) those who oppose themselves.” The phrase “oppose themselves” develops from the Greek word for antithesis, a contrary position. In the middle tense as it is here, it means to stand opposed to oneself, to place oneself in opposition to oneself.
Confrontation shows Christians how they are standing opposed to themselves. It exposes how believers are living inconsistently with their new hearts—as new creations in Christ. It demonstrates how their lives are inconsistent with their stated beliefs. It reveals how they are buying the lie of the Satan’s work’s narrative rather than being rooted in the truth of Christ’s grace narrative. Confrontation points out discrepancies.
In 2 Timothy 2:22-26, Paul explains the character of the confronter, the process of confrontation, the goal of confronting, and the true enemy in confrontation.
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him (oppose themselves) he must gently instruct (confront, correct), in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
The Character of the Confronter
Confrontation requires the character quality of integrity. To confront another person, Timothy first has to confront himself. He has to flee (put off) evil desires and pursue (put on) godly affections. He removes the log from his eye by living out of a pure heart, before he confronts the heart of another.
Confrontation also requires humility. Timothy shuns fights, quarrels, and stupid arguments. Instead, he is to be kind and patient toward others, especially with those who are refractory. He sees himself as the Lord’s servant voluntarily under Christ’s authority.
Confrontation further requires spirituality. Biblical confrontation is not bold and bullying. It is gentle and patient. In confronting, Timothy practices patience (2:24). That is, he bears up under wrong. When confronting others, they frequently become displeased with him. To bear up without resentment, Timothy needs forbearance.
Timothy is also to confront in meekness (2 Timothy 2:25). Meekness includes a temper of spirit and managed strength released with gentleness, humility, and concern. The meek person neither fights against God nor enters power struggles with others. The meek spiritual friend displays the opposite of self-assertion and self-interest.
The Process of Confrontation
The process of confrontation requires the ability to teach (2:24). Timothy needs to skillfully relate doctrine to conduct. He has to relate truth to human relationships.
Paul uses the phrase “gently instruct” to describe the nature of such teaching. The Greek word relates to schooling and in this context emphasizes corrective instruction.
Its root form literally means to train children. Such child training requires practicality. It also necessitates explanation, as opposed to simply handing down rules by fiat. Much more than mere exhortation to stop a behavior, it involves instruction in the process of heart change leading to behavioral change.
The process of confrontation also requires savvy. “Those who oppose themselves he must gently confront in the hope that God will grant them repentance” (2:25, author’s translation, emphasis added). Timothy avoids power struggles and a quarrelsome spirit by realizing that it is not his role, but God’s, to bring about repentance. His role is simply to gently instruct by demonstrating discrepancies.
The Goal of Confrontation
The goal of instructive correction (confrontation) is maturity: love out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5). Thus the goal is virtue (2 Peter 1:3-11): character, not simply content.
Biblical instruction/confrontation includes a presentation of a clear worldview (grace narrative) and the implications derived from it (grace relationships). Confrontation promotes spiritual development through personal influence; it is the relational presentation of God’s worldview. It skillfully explores any discrepancies between grace narratives and works narratives and grace relationships and works relationships.
Paul further develops the goal of gentle biblical confrontation when he writes, “that they may recover themselves” (2 Timothy 2:26, author’s translation). Thus, the goal is sobriety and sanity. To “recover” means to return to soberness as from a state of delirium where one is under the control of an outside element—the controlling passions of the flesh, intoxicated with false worldviews, and snared by the Devil. Confrontation helps a person return to a sound mind—a whole, healthy mind that thinks and lives with integrity.
The True Enemy in Confrontation
The goal of confrontation points to the true enemy in confrontation—escape from the snare of the Devil who has taken them captive to do his will. “Snare” (2 Timothy 2:26) is a trap that fastens or holds fast, a net, a noose. Various ancient authors used the word for seductive women and for the Trojan Horse. A snare is anything that entices with something desirable. It promises pleasure, but gives pain. When snared, a believer is caught in the net of self-deception and captured by the Devil’s delusion.
So consider who the true enemy is here. Your counselee or parishioner is not the ultimate enemy, Satan is. He has taken the person captive. You attack Satan with God’s spiritual armor rather than attacking your spiritual friend.
Pictured how Paul paints it, confrontation is the loving presentation of truth applied to specific inconsisten areas of our spiritual friend’s life. When responded to positively, the results are freedom from the Devil’s seduction and freedom to live out God’s truth in love.
Join the Conversation
How could you apply biblical principles of mutual confrontation to your spiritual friendships?