Confronting a brother or sister in their sin is never a pleasant thing. Quite frankly, if you do think it is fun, you shouldn’t be doing it at all.
But sometimes it is necessary, and here we see in Paul’s life some principles for doing so.
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. (1:24)
Here we see a key attitude when confronting people. We should never come to a person with the attitude of, “You must listen to me.” Rather it should be with a heart of, “I really care for you. I want to work with you through this so that you can overcome your sin. I want you to know true joy, and to stand firm in your faith.”
So often, though, we instead come with an attitude of condemnation, and the love of Christ is not evident at all as we confront them.
But with Paul, it was totally different. He said,
For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. (2:4)
There’s no pride or arrogance here. Rather, it’s a heart that truly cared for the Corinthians.
He also confronted them with the strong hope that they would repent as a result. Sometimes as we confront people, we do so not because we have hope that they will repent, but simply to vent our anger at them and condemn them. But Paul wrote,
I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. (2:3)
In other words, “I wrote so that when I came again, we wouldn’t have to go through another painful visit. I wrote as I did because I believed in you. I believed you would repent, and that ultimately, we could share in the joy of the Lord together when I came.”
Our attitude as we confront then, shouldn’t be “This is so like you.” Rather, it should be, “This is so unlike you. Let’s get back on track.”
Finally, we need to know that there is a time to confront, and there is a time to let God work. Paul had made his initial confrontation and had been rebuffed. He considered making another attempt, but in the end, put it off. Why?
I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth…So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? (1:23, 2:1-2)
And so while Paul wrote another letter pleading with them to repent (2:3), he put off seeing them. Sometimes that is the best thing: to leave people in the hands of God while letting them know that you still care.
So when we confront, let us do so with these attitudes. And by God’s grace, we will see good fruit in the lives of those we care about as a result.