Confronting sin – when, if, and how should we?

The goal of confrontation should be restoration. The apostle Paul stated, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1 NIV).” He emphasizes that restoration must be accomplished gently. Elsewhere, Paul also emphasized that we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Some of you also mentioned the importance of examining one’s own life before confronting others (Matthew 7:3-5; Holland, Dr., 2015).

“Righteous indignation is not ours to assign.”  We live in a day and age where person seem to feel that it is their right to “ram” [the real words of a Christian who as accosted by another Christian because they were caught in a sin]. The biggest sin in the church right now is pride. Why do you say that Joyce?  Let me give you some examples.

“since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 Amplified Version).

What does all mean? Just that all! Everyone, the entire enchilada of humanity, saved and unsaved.  When we pretend that we are super righteous and are better than anyone else., and or will not listen, read, or learn from anyone other than the Bible, we are being prideful because we are actually saying, that God can show nothing to us through another human being. We are saying it is you and me, God. If you don’t reveal it to me through your word then I will not accept it.  That theological position is prevalent today.

I do understand why. “False teachers” have plagued the church sin Paul wrote his letters to every single congregation in the Bible, and they will continue to exist even after you and I pass away if the Lord does not tarry.  It is through deception and guile that the enemy leads people into a false sense of security. Then slowly but surely the humility that comes from knowing the Lord and knowing our own filthiness before Him erodes into this entity for which there is not spiritual nice name.

We will see others and their sin.  But what are we supposed to do about it?  Publicize it on the internet as we did when our President was caught committing fornication?  Of course, the leader of any religious denomination will tell you that there are many people walking into church on Sunday  mornings, standing before the pulpit and are preaching amazingly convicting sermons about the demon drink, gluttony, sin, sin, sin, but what they are not telling their congregants is that they spend hours every night online participating in every kind of perversion that exists online.  However, God knows their sin.  He did not erase them from the face of the earth. He did not remove them from their pulpits, and He God has the power and authority to do just that! Why because that man’s sin is no worse than the sin of pride, or gossiping, or creating division among the brethren.  I do not want to continue this discourse, I believe the point has been made.

So how do we handle our brother’s sin without destroying him/her emotionally?

McMinn (2011) used Millard Erickson’s declaration about confronting sin, “sin is any lack of conformity, active or passive, to the moral will of God [an act of willful disobedience]. . . . it is an inner disposition, part of our character that resembles a chronic sickness (p. 148). As counselors, we are cognizant of the research that indicates psychology’s point of view regarding sin.  The theoretical framework of psychology does not consider it a viable concern.

Christian counselors are aware of universal sin and personal sin. The Word of God has provided us with ample scriptural references to support that position. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:5 King James Version). “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro 3:23 New International Version).  The Scripture addressed sin and its abhorrence to God.

However, Christian counselors are concerned with the theological construct surrounding sin and how individuals should recognize that they need to establish and maintain an intimate healing relationship with God.  God deals with each person and their sin. In a presentation on confronting sin the presenter stated,

 But our job is to deal with the people in front of us and let God deal with the sin. And so it’s important for us to help our clients understand that conviction for sin and sorrow for sin and repentance are gifts from God!   For many people, healing cannot begin because they are determined to remain in control of every dimension of their lives, and their main motive for coming to counseling is to be more in control of their lives (“Week 7: 1 Presentation: Counseling Methods Related to Confrontation and Confession[PowerPoint Slides],” 2015, Slide: The work of the Holy Spirit).

Before Christian counselors [or pastors] can begin the confrontation process with a counselee, they must deal with their sin and attitude of confession, contrition, and repentance.

As Christian counselors, we determine if confrontation will violate any ethical and spiritual standards; we are called to “do no harm” (McMinn, 2011, p. 176).  We will ask the three questions presented to us by McMinn:

  1. Will the confrontation help to establish a healthy sense of self?
  2. Will the confrontation help to establish a healthy sense of need?
  3. Will the confrontation help to establish a healing relationship? (180).

Here are some real-life examples of how confrontation can cause apparent lifelong irreparable damage to a Christian. A discussion ensued about the issue of integrity within Christian leaders.  Student A declared that she will, “Never darken the doors of a church as a member again”.  This Christian young lady was brow beaten by a pastor who thought that she had committed an atrocity that she did or did not commit [I will not state either way what the actual situation was] and required contrition or else.  She was writing about the incident seven years after the fact. She is still not attending any church as a permanent member and stated, “When I need mentoring I will find someone I can trust” (Student A).

The damage to this person’s psyche was intense.  Is it irreparable? No! When she listens to God’s voice and finds someone whom she can trust, then that counselor can probably use silence, pondering, or gentle, empathetic questioning during the counseling session and she will confess, repent, and allow the Holy Spirit to peel away the layers of damage she experienced.  She is not ready for direct censure. It will take some time in the counseling relationship before she will be ready for a direct approach. Trust must be established first.

Another example: A person who was used to being in authority.

With Joyce, she was always contrite and respectful.  She had a prayerful attitude until she became a leader of a small group. She was gruff, dogmatic, and spoke with an attitude of condemnation towards others.  She was not going to listen to Joyce because, “Well, Joyce was just too soft and listened and waited too long for people to change.  Joyce used what behaviorist called “planned ignoring” that was in effect silence with her while she ranted and raved.  Then it moved to Questioning.  Joyce prayed without ceasing for this person, but she just did not see how her attitude and behavior was impacting her health. Her blood pressure was ridiculously high, and she had a lot of health problems.  She did not get along with any of her family members including her children and grandchildren.  The years of praying finally came to a head when according to her God dealt with her and started to speak to her.

She was not going to see anyone. She was going to deal with this herself.  A close friend of both of ours started talking to her about her lifestyle and her walk with God etc., [Joyce talked with the friend at length as a mentor to get her through the crisis while she talked to this person who needed to confess her sins, develop and attitude of forgiveness, and allow God to soften her heart].

God took her where He needed to take her until she surrendered to Him. Then true counseling, mentorship, and discipleship could begin. She is now on fire for God and calls herself a born-again Christian.  She shares Jesus with people and prays without ceasing for them.  If Joyce had pushed her to confess her sins, quite frankly her obnoxious, rude, disrespectful and condescending attitude towards others would not have changed. She would have entered depression earlier and would not have been close to ready to “listen” to God when He called out to her in the midst of her “DARKNESS”, as she put it. When she was ready to start talking about her life she revealed all sorts of physically and emotionally damaging experiences.  She also revealed poor counseling experiences with condemning Christians.

Finally, our desire is to see people healed but we don’t have to see them healed now.  The Christian counselor’s job is to take that burden to the cross. A Christian Counselor is to pray without ceasing for the counselee (McMinnn, 2011).   Ron Hawkins proposed, “God is already working with the counselee and the counselor” when they both enter the counseling relationship (Hawkins, 2015, Phase 2).  Joyce believes that when a Christian counselor and a counselee connect they do so as part of God’s plan for their lives. It is a divine appointment.  One orchestrated by our Heavenly Father. “ Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6 KJV).

In conclusion, as Christian counselors this is our goal,

We pray as we breathe, inhaling in the wisdom of God’s presence in this moment, exhaling our frantic need…Sometimes we pray aloud with our clients – and here is where all the science, ethical issues and techniques discussed in this chapter come in handy but most often we do not. Still, we sit in prayer” (McMinn, 2011, p. 109).  Pray on my friends and serve you are called to a high calling.

When God chooses to convict a person of their sin, it will be evident that the timing is right.  How we proceed will be decided by the Holy Spirit.  When we proceed will be determined by the Holy Spirit, and how we proceed will be determined by the Holy Spirit.  We are His human instruments gifted with the ability to listen, I did not realize that this was a gift until I saw what folks responses were to conflict, listening – actively listening to a person unburden their souls is the greatest gift that you can give a person. Why, 99.9% of the time, it is during the listening process that they will begin to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and reveal their sin to you.  Then they have invited you into their problem.  No, it is still not yours to fix. Only God forgives sin, but you can walk them through what His love for them looks like as they embrace the fact that they have sinned and how much it grieves Him to know that they have sinned.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23 AMP).  We must remember that these are God’s precious children, and He has the final say in how they come to a resolution of who they are in Him, and the acknowledgment of their sin before Him.  They have not sinned against us, but against him. In the same way that we sin against Him every day :(!

 

 

References

Hawkins, R. (2015). Week 5: Finding additional information that helps for session one phase one [html]. Lecture presented at Introduction to pastoral counseling, Liberty University. Retrieved from Blackboard:https://learn.liberty.edu

Holland, W. (2015). Week 7: Confronting sin [Discussion Board Post ny Dr. W. Holland]. Liberty University Integration of Psychology and Theology. Retrieved from Blackboard.Liberty.edu

McMinn, M. R. (2011). Psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling [Google Books Version]. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/books/reader?printsec=frontcover&output=reader&id=LNT_QSrKqggC&pg=GBS.PA119.w.3.1.15

Ortberg, J. (2009). The life you’ve always wanted: Spiritual disciplines for ordinary people [Google Books Version]. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=jckzhepTtHMC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&hl=en&output=reader&pg=GBS.PT198.w.2.0.31

Week 7: Presentation: Counseling methods related to Confrontation and confession[PowerPoint slides]. (2015). Lecture 1, Liberty University Integration of Psychology and Theology. Retrieved from Blackboard.Liberty.edu

 

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