When is it Right to Confront a Brother?

Very few people actually like confrontation.  In fact, it is so few that I have never met anyone who actually admitted to liking it, but seasoned disciples know the valuable fruit it brings.  Healthy dialogue is necessary for peace to flourish.  A failure to interact with another out of weakness or fear can only produce conflict later.

What is Confrontation?

Defining confrontation may help in embracing its value.  One meaning of the word is, “a face to face meeting.”  A common definition is the “clashing of two forces.”  Both could be accurate, but let’s address it from a biblical view, that is, “admonishing, warning, or instructing one another.”  Paul wrote to the Romans expressing his confidence in their knowledge and love for one to instruct each other.

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. (Romans 15:14)

The word translated “instruct” is also translated as “admonish” (Col 3:16) and “warn.”  Instructing the church how to deal with an unruly member, Paul commands them to “warn him as a brother.”  This was to be done with love and tenderness, yet firmly.  Paul knew the result would end in peace.

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.  Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.  Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.    (II Thessalonians 3:14-16)

This form of confrontation is not an assault or judgment on another’s character, but rather a gentle warning by the authority of the Scriptures.  The Word of God is the authority that one believer has with another.  Confronting someone with your own opinion or judgment will produce death and not life.  Paul spoke of producing a rewarding peaceful end.

How Do You Confront?

What did Paul know about the need to admonish a wayward brother that would bring peace?  And why did Jesus give instruction on going to a brother who has sinned against you?  What is the wisdom and benefit of obeying the Lord’s instruction to us in this matter? These and other questions must be pursued.

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. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Jesus’ instructions on dealing with a brother who sins against you.

1)   For this confrontation to work, the person being approached must be a brother in the Lord.  We as believers are not called to address those who are outside of the church (1 Cor 5:9-10).

2)   The one who has been sinned against must take the initiative to approach the other.  Don’t wait for them to see their sin, lest it become a stumbling block of bitterness for you.

3)   You must go alone.  At this point it is a must that you have not talked to anyone else at all.  If you do, you will defile the process.

4)   You must show him his fault.  It is important that you not judge his actions or his character; only address the action.  For example, “I want to talk about what you said earlier today.  I heard you say . . .” Don’t pile on guilt by stating how much it hurt you or how others are talking about what he said.  Simply tell him his sin.  Don’t say, “You were mean to me.”  Speak about the actual action.  Have Scripture available to show it is a sin, such as “false testimony,” etc.  The reason this is important is that many times our feelings are hurt because someone does not do what we wanted them to do.  They have not actually sinned, but rather they failed to meet our expectations.  That is different and should not be addressed.

5)   Make sure it is a sin that was committed against you.  If it was against another, God must give you entrance by authority or relationship.

6)   If your brother hears you, then you have won or gained a brother.  At this point it is over and should not be shared with any others.  Love covers sin.

7)      If he does not hear you, then take one or two others.  It is at this point where most people defile this process of confrontation.  It is very important that after you have gone and the offending brother does not hear that you take one or two people who have NOT HEARD.  If you tell them what it is about, you are guilty of gossip and tampering with the jury.  Simply ask them if they would go with you to hear a matter in which you desire to have reconciliation.  They should hear it for the first time in front of the offending brother.

8)      The matter is told again in the same way to the offending brother, but this time it is in front of one or two witnesses.  Explain to the offending brother that the witnesses have no idea of the matter that you are about to discuss.  If the witnesses determine that a sin has not been committed, then your response is to graciously receive that judgment and be reconciled based on the decision.  If they agree with your assessment and the offending brother hears and repents, then be reconciled and the matter dropped with no further discussion.

9)      If he does not hear you, then you should go to the leadership of the church, stating succinctly the situation and outcome.  Then allow the leadership to question both you and the witnesses separately.  If you and the witness confirm the transgression and response, then it will be taken to the church body.

10)Before it is taken to the church body, the offending member must know each step that is being taken and be invited to be present in order that repentance take place.  The process and situation should be written down and given by the leadership of the church with nothing added or discussed further.

11)The unrepentant brother is to be treated as a pagan, which is with compassion in order that eventually he would repent.  Members should remain kind and civil but realize this brother has removed himself by his refusal to repent.

It is within this context that Jesus says, “Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:18-20).” He is speaking of the governmental authority of the church.  He promises to be in the midst of two or three when they are involved in such matters.

If done appropriately, repentance will probably come early in the exchange of these steps.  Remember, confrontation is for redemption and not punishment. All the above encounters must be done in gentleness and with consideration manifesting the love of Christ (Gal 6:1).

About the Author:

Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.

Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.

2 thoughts on “When is it Right to Confront a Brother?

  1. I just have a couple questions to take this a little further – If a brother hears and repents, I understand that we’re to forgive 70 x 7. Are boundaries appropriate? What does that look like practically? I read recently in our NT daily reading:
    (Titus 3:10-11 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.)
    I’m not clear on how to walk this out.

    1. Kelly, causing division is not the same as a brother sinning against you personally. To cause division references between two or more folks and it can be handled differently. That means the body of Christ is being hurt and must not be allowed to continue.

      When a brother sins. . . — 70×7 means forgive him completely. Forgiveness does not mean trust is restored or one should ignore ongoing wrong behavior. You can forgive someone for their sin and address the future with a boundary. Jesus even said, “Go and sin no more.” Forgiveness does not mean that the other person does not have a responsibility to show fruit of repentance. Matt 3:8 “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”

      Thanks Kelly

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