We would love to float through life with neither confrontations nor drama. Tough conversations are unpleasant, and we prefer to steer away from them. But there are times when difficult conversations must take place.
Jesus was not a stranger to tough talk. He spoke to critics, skeptics, and followers alike. He even spoke to his murderers. I think we can learn from him. Think about these five ideas.
1. Jesus had a love for people
Even when facing his sharpest critics, Jesus loved his fellowman. In the background of every interaction was his mission statement that he came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). You are lost, and you are just like everyone else, Jesus came to save you.
Your tough talk is no different. You can say the things you need to say – see Matthew 23 for Jesus’ tough talk – and still love the person to whom you are speaking. The employee that you must reprimand must still be someone for whom you care. The co-worker who jammed you up with the boss still needs to be your friend. With the right heart in pace, awkward discussions become easier.
2. Jesus always spoke truth.
Lying, dissembling, hedging, are stupid. Dishonest tactics never help and always cost you credibility. Jesus did not play games. He spoke plainly.
Sin demands plain speech. Sin demands truth. I shouldn’t have to say it, but plain speech is still loving speech. Remember the heart for people we spoke about above? When the difficult conversation is over, have we been confronting sin or just creating clouds of confusion?
Imagine a cancer doctor who tells the patient that he has a few odd cells in his brain when the truth is that he has a stage four malignancy near his brain stem. When a person sins, we must say something!
3. Jesus used great wisdom when confronting sin.
Carefully read the gospels, and you will see that Jesus did not treat everyone alike. He was gentle with the woman caught in adultery (John 4:1-45) but stern with the religious leaders (Matthew 23).
Wisdom is not easy to gain, but it is also not an impossible characteristic to develop. Solomon says wisdom comes with understanding the words of God (Proverbs 2:9-15). We ought to seek godly wisdom and eschew earthly thinking (See Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16). How? Only by God’s power working through his word, in our lives.
Your acquired godly wisdom will help you decide when and where to confront someone about sin.
4. Sometimes, confronting someone about sin doesn’t work.
I have always been intrigued by the deserters of John 6. What were they thinking? They had followed Jesus and seen his miracles. The ate the miracle food he created and then left when confronted with tough teachings. It is also disappointing to see the resistance of the Sanhedrin in the face of clear and unquestionable miracles (c.f. Acts 4:13-17, esp. vs. 16; Acts 7:54ff). Although confronted, they still rejected truth.
You will meet some who are so resistant to truth that even Jesus would not be able to change their minds. Remember, when confronting someone about sin there are no guarantees of success. Each person always retains the power of choice.
5. Sometimes, confronting someone about sin means confronting the man in the mirror.
Apart from Jesus, every last one of us is “wretched, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). We all have the log in our eye (Matthew 7:3). We all are sinners (Romans 3:23).
The hardest person to confront is yourself. I once asked a beautiful young lady to consider all her sins that Jesus would take away. She would not. Why? “It’s too scary!” she replied. I think we all understand.
This self-awareness of my own sin actually helps me in two ways. First, it helps me target my own shortcomings and failures. Second, it keeps me humble, very humble.
But personal sin does not prevent me from confronting someone about their sin. It simply stimulates me to seek that purity that comes in Jesus alone.
Confronting someone about sin is neither easy nor fun. It is difficult. But as soldiers of the cross, it is necessary. You can do this. Spend time in prayer and seek the wisdom that some from God.