A friend of mine faced a difficult task. Steve discovered that a leader in his church was involved in some sinful activities. After seeking wise and confidential counsel, Steve met with the leader and nervously but firmly urged him to turn from his sin and change his ways. The leader left the meeting distraught. Later, his daughter called Steve in tears. “Dad has locked himself in his room,” she said, “and he says he’s never coming out.”
Those words haunted Steve. Had he done the right thing? Had he been too harsh or judgmental? The confrontation had broken the leader, and the strained relations between Steve and the family lasted for months. But, in the end, God worked in the leader’s heart and he changed his ways. Hard words had helped end his bad behavior.
I’m grateful for the emotional honesty the apostle Paul includes in his letters—particularly in 2 Corinthians. Having written some hard words to the church in Corinth about a serious matter, he too for a time had regretted his words because of the pain they’d caused (2 Corinthians 7:8). But ultimately he was glad he’d sent the confronting letter: “Not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways” (2 Corinthians 7:9). Though painful, his words hadn’t harmed but helped them (2 Corinthians 7:9). This meant Paul and the Corinthians could both live without regret (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Confronting others should never be done lightly. It requires gentleness, humility, and integrity, and must be done with the other person’s best interests at heart (Galatians 6:1). But courage will be required too. As Steve discovered, such confrontations are rarely without pain. But they can indeed be life-changing as God does His restorative work.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: James 1:2-27
Compare Paul’s hard words in 2 Corinthians 10, 11, and 13, with the softer words of 1:3-5 and chapters 2 and 7. What do both tones of voice say about healthy confrontation?
Have you ever regretted confronting someone over a matter? How would you do things differently now, if at all? How does loving confrontation reflect God’s heart?