Three Checkpoints to Pass Before Confronting a Friend

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Erin Davis gives practical advice about when and how to confront a friend.

In our relationships with friends, sometimes confrontation is necessary. But according to God's Word, confrontation shouldn't be our first course of action. Through His Word, God instructs us to forgive each other, be patient with one another, and bear with one another in love. 

But is there ever a time when we should confront? According to God's Word, the answer is yes. But we need to consider His guidelines for conflict. Here are three checkpoints to pass before confronting a friend. 

Confrontation is best used for dealing with sin.

"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" (Matthew 18:15).

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1–2).

Both of these passages give us instructions for how to confront our brothers (or sisters) when there is sin involved. The problem with confrontation is that we tend to confront things we don't like about our friends but shy away from confronting sin. This is backward logic. I think it is great to have open communication in your friendships and even have the ability to be honest when something annoys or hurts you. But confrontation shouldn't be used loosely. You don't need to call your friend out every time she has a grumpy day or gives you a mean look or fails to give you the amount of attention you desire. 

You do have a responsibility to confront the sin in her life. But that's sticky, isn't it? It's so much easier to call out the junk that doesn't really matter, but that's not what good friends do. 

Fortunately for us, the Bible is very clear about how we are to confront sin in the lives of others. We'll cover that in-depth in Sunday's post. 

Before you confront, pray.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). 

If you're going to confront a friend with her sin, you need to cover the matter in prayer. This passage in James offers a two-pronged attack for dealing with sin. The first is to confess it to one another. Hopefully, you and your friend will be able to have an open dialogue about the sin that is on the table. But the second part of the equation is just as important. You must pray for each other, and this part of the passage comes with a promise. Your prayers are powerful and effective. They matter! If you're going to confront a friend, you need to rely on God's power to do a work in your heart and the heart of your friend. 

Before we confront a sister on her sin, we have a lot of work to do on ourselves.
In Matthew 7:3–5 Jesus says, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plan out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

We love our planks don't we? We find it easy to recognize the sin in the lives of others, but we can't see the sin in our own lives. And if we do see it, we minimize it, trivialize it, or promise to deal with it another day. 

That simply won't do if you're going to be a truth speaker to your friends. Before you confront a friend about her sin, you've got to be honest about your own sin and willing to hear her if she wants to talk about your sin too. 

Also, it's critical that you examine your motives. 

Philippians 2:3–5 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."

Don't confront for selfish motives. Don't do it because of pride or jealousy or envy. Don't point out sin if it gives you the false sense that you are somehow better than the sinner in the hot seat. Check your heart. Does it look like Christ's? If so, proceed with caution. 

After all of that, your head may be spinning. You may be thinking, It seems to me like confrontation is never worth the cost. But it is. Lovingly confronting the sin in your sisters' lives is an important action for a true friend. Listen to what James tells us in James 5:19–20:

"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins."  

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