Matthew 7:3-5- 3 “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? 4 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? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
As we dive into this challenging text, allow me to correct something up front. Jesus does not say that we should never confront someone or challenge someone or point something out to someone. He simply says there are some things we should do first so that we can appropriately and effectively do the challenging in someone else’s life. He basically says we have no right to try to bring correction to anyone’s life if we aren’t open to it first ourselves.
So, folks who say that it’s not our job to judge need to understand that the Bible does not forbid us from bringing correction to people’s lives. In fact, the teaching of the Word does exactly that. No, we do not have the authority to judge someone’s heart or make a judgment about their eternal destiny, but we do have a responsibility to one another and to our world to hold up a standard, to bring restoration to people, to help people grow, and to share the truth of God’s Word in a way that would bring about change in people’s lives. Galatians 6:1- says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” Notice it says that those who live by the Spirit, who look to the Spirit to prompt them and lead them in restoring people, those are the people who need to move out and into that kind of ministry. When you are seeking to help a person experience God’s peace in fullness and that peace is being hindered by sin in their lives, you need to make sure you are in step with the Spirit as you go. Once you know God is leading you, you must go.
Well, I love that Jesus uses humor to teach this lesson. I love how He came up with the log and the speck to talk about something difficult. He knew that pointing out hypocrisy in someone’s life would most certainly put them on the defensive, would cause proud hearts to bristle, and cause people to simply dismiss what Jesus was trying to say. So, Jesus attempted to make a heavy message as light-hearted as possible.
I imagine he picked up a stick that was on the ground and held it up to his eye as He gave this rebuke. He DID know the condition of the hearts represented in the crowd. He DID know who needed to wrestle with their blind spots, their own shortcomings and failures. Maybe His object lesson gave them the laugh they needed in order to give them the capacity to take in the truth He intended to convey.
A plank in our eye would make it impossible for us to see anyone else’s speck correctly, right? Jesus was saying, examination and judgment start with us. I mean, how can I really help you and try to make a move toward you to get something out of your eye when all the while I have a big stick in my eye? Perhaps a next-level thought is, Are we tolerant of our own sins, but easily incited by the sins of others? Do we take some kind of pleasure in exposing other people’s failures, all the while, concealing our own? Sometimes our rush to point out the flaws of others could be an attempt to take the spotlight out of the branch that is growing out of our own eye.
Here is a good Scripture to pray through before you go to someone with whom you have a concern or a conflict: Colossians 3:5-14 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[a] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
If you pray this Scripture, in essence you would be praying, “God, expose anything unholy in my life that has hold of me that could keep me from being helpful to the person I need to speak with. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to bring your healing power to someone’s life. I don’t want to go into the situation with anger. I don’t want to say things that demean or dismiss anyone. I don’t want to say things in a way that damage the person or the relationship we have. I don’t want to misrepresent the truth. I want to address this situation with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I want to be forgiving, and above all, I want this person to see YOUR LOVE which can help them hear and receive what You are telling me to share.”
If your goal is to be a help to people and not a hindrance Jesus says, you will deal with your own stuff first. In other words, there will be a recognition on your part that you aren’t perfect and that will create a spirit of humility which lays the foundation for you to go to someone else. No one wants to be confronted by someone with a haughty spirit, but many will receive someone with a humble spirit. Humility keeps us from coming across as “holier than thou.” Humility keeps us from having a critical spirit. If we are about speck removal, it always must be from a position of concern and compassion and not condemnation.
So, to be clear, you don’t have to be 100% perfect in order to confront someone about something. You simply need to be addressing your own issues and in humility seek to share with others. Otherwise, not only will you not be received well by the other person, but you could likely do more damage and even hurt the cause of Christ in the process. That’s how seriously we have to approach confrontation.
When I decide to step out and talk to someone about something that would challenge them, one way I am currently praying is, “Lord, help me to speak in such a way that ultimately this person will thank me for caring enough to share with them.” When Thom and I went through premarital counseling, we were taught that when our spouse came to us to share a frustration or something they were unhappy with, our first response should be, “Thank you for sharing that with me.” It’s not easy to do, but it can really transform and diffuse an emotional situation in a hurry.
Listen, it takes a lot of courage to even bring something difficult up and having a blind spot corrected ought to be something we learn to welcome. Oh, if we could learn to receive each other that way…to be thankful that someone wants to have the conversation, to be grateful that someone cares enough about the relationship to clear the air or to point something out in our lives that could lead to a catastrophe in our lives, should be something for which we are thankful. Maybe this sermon just went from how to give someone correction to how to receive correction, but both are equally important.
In fact, the Bible says we won’t grow to maturity in Christ without receiving correction. We need to welcome it. I actually got a message from my husband a few weeks back that said, “Thank you for your gentle confrontation.” I had just messaged him about something small that I thought he might consider. He took to heart a suggestion I made and did something differently in a situation. When I got his message, I thought, “Wow. I am married to the most awesome man ever.” Like if it is possible to fall deeper in love after 23 years, I did in that moment. His response actually became a challenge to me to be more open to constructive criticism in my own life. Isn’t that good? Isn’t that God? Like, when we do things Christ’s way, we are not only going to challenge someone else, but we will be challenged and blessed as well.
And one last little thing before I move on, when someone challenges us about something we are doing, maybe there is only 25% truth to what they have to say. That is OK. We don’t have to get all up in a tizzy about the 75% that isn’t true or helpful. We don’t. We can let it go. We can appreciate the 25% that is necessary for us to take a look at. Be thankful for the awareness and grow from it and move on. Why can’t we just acknowledge to the person, “You know, you’ve said some things today that I want to pray about and take a look at. You’re right about some things that I could have done better or differently or need to consider changing.” Why can’t we say that instead of, “You’re full of bologna.” Or “Oh no you didn’t.” Or “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Or “How dare you criticize me?” Or “Well, let me tell you a thing or two?”
I think I did a sermon one time about “carefronting” instead of “confronting.” It kind of boils down to our approach. Let’s be honest; with some people, it will never matter how kind or careful we are with our approach, they won’t be in a place where they can hear and receive us. Hard-hearted people have difficulty receiving hard messages. Proud people have trouble accepting responsibility for their part in a conflict or seeing how what they are doing is wrong. We cannot be deterred from the call to “Speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Now, Our job as peacemakers is compounded these days by a culture of incivility. It is becoming increasingly difficult to bring anything up, even if you suggest people just consider something from a different point of view. In a time when I think culture would say, “Let everyone live the way they want to live” and “Let’s value individual expression and thought” in reality the opposite has happened. We don’t really have a culture where people can freely express their opinions. We have a culture where people have become very dogmatic about everything, and if you disagree with them, you are viewed as an enemy. No longer is a different view simply a different way to look at something, but it is seen an attack, and often has become a deal-breaker for friendship and fellowship. And it breaks the heart of God. I think that has resulted, in part, from a lack of willingness to consider our own blind spots. It is also the result of us not always being Spirit-led and skillful in the way we approach confrontation.
Christians, we are called to express ourselves peacefully, but in many cases, we have gotten sucked into the loud and proud ways of the world. People have become comfortable saying whatever they want to say. Even Christians have become OK with swear words, crass expressions, and generalized statements that lump big groups of people together. It may even seem that in order to get someone’s attention nowadays that’s the way you have to speak. Like, you have to fight fire with fire. No, you don’t. You don’t fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water…if you expect to put the fire out. I’m telling you Christian, to resist and reject that kind of talk. It will only escalate a situation and incite either an attack or cause someone to run away which leaves you without an opportunity to positively impact a person’s life. And don’t bait people into arguments and don’t fall for the bait that is being dangled everywhere. None of that will help the cause of peace.
So, how do we do peaceful confrontation?
We confront people prayerfully. I mentioned it earlier in the message, but let prayer prepare your heart and the heart of the person you are confronting. “Lord, give me a tender heart full of mercy.” (Ephesians 4:32) “God, let no unwholesome talk come out of my mouth. I only want to say what is helpful and will be intended to build and fortify the person I am speaking to.” (Ephesians 4:29) “Help me to have this other person’s best interest at heart” (Philippians 2:4). Pray for God’s will to be done. (Matthew 6:9-10) Do you know it is God’s will for differences to be settled? It is God’s will for relationships to be restored. Pray accordingly. Pray that there is no selfish agenda that would be the reason you wanted to confront someone. (Philippians 2:3) Pray for the other person to be blessed by the conversation, even if you would consider them on an earthly level to be an enemy. (Matthew 5:44-45) Pray that you won’t cause unnecessary pain. (I Chronicles 4:10) Pray against Satanic interference. For Satan is the great robber of peace. He doesn’t like it when Christians actually seek to live out the principles of Scripture. Pray he doesn’t get a word in, a foot in, and that his voice will be silenced the entire time you are with that person and after the meeting finishes. Pray for a spirit of forgiveness to flow between you and the other person. Ask God to help you see what you cannot see about the other person because you are blinded by anger or bitterness. Maybe your log isn’t some pattern of sin, but your log is the un-forgiveness you have towards someone. We are all complicated beings and there are often extra “reasons” why we say and do what we do. Understanding those things could help resolve a conflict.
Prayer paves the way for peace in the midst of conflict. You could even ask the person you want to talk to if you could offer a prayer before you share something with them. Just explain that you want God to be present and you want to make sure you are staying submissive to Him during the conversation. I say all of that to say, “Don’t try to confront anyone without praying.” It won’t go well if you do.
James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. I’ve never thought of this verse in the context of confrontation before. I’ve only considered it a verse on physical healing and how sin can cause physical and emotional problems in our lives. But what if it could also be applied to conflict with other believers? I say that because only believers could actually pray FOR each other. What if the healing that is talked about could apply to the healing of the relationship? When was the last time you asked an enemy to become your prayer partner? Would it even be conceivable that two enemies could meet each week for prayer for 12 weeks? Isn’t that radical? Would it be worth a shot? In that instance wouldn’t both people be surrendering to the Holy Spirit in a dramatic way? Wouldn’t they be giving God incredible room to work in their relationship? Wouldn’t they be putting the devil to flight by that kind of intention? How radical could we get with our desire to be peacemakers? How much time would we make to see it happen?
We confront people privately-Nobody wants their transgressions blasted on social media. No one. And yet I continue to see, even believers, do a lot of outing, a lot of exposing, a lot of finger pointing, a lot of confrontation on social media. I know I will never convince a group this size that conversation about controversial subjects on social media isn’t usually helpful, so I won’t even try. And I won’t say that conversations aren’t needed and necessary. Believers need to be in the conversations, for sure. 100%. But when the conversation turns to confrontation, it needs to be done privately.
The Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8 Love keeps things private. Love keeps people from gaining a bad reputation and being hated on by others. If that is true, then the converse is also true. It is unloving to uncover a multitude of sins. It’s easier for someone to process what you have to say when you are the only one talking to them. It is also easier for people who have been covered by love to recover and start over after a personal failure. Once you expose them and invite public opinion on social media, you have just ganged up on the person and their natural inclination says they only have two options which are fight or flight. We can avoid putting people in that position if we will speak to them privately, one-on-one. What is the purpose of painting someone into a corner? What is beneficial about that? Nothing. Matthew 18:15 says, 15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
I know this verse talks about dealing with a conflict between believers, but why would we treat the world with any less respect? Why not elevate the relationship we have with them and view them as if they were a brother or sister in Christ? Maybe it would lead to them wanting to do so.
Now, I know that Matthew 18:15 was written before cell phones and computers, but I think the way it is worded is perfect and would still be the way it needs to be worded for us today. It says we are to go to someone and point out their fault. If we want to do confrontation well, we should confront people personally. More messes are made by emailing and texting. We need to sit down and look at each other. There is no chance to see someone’s tears if you aren’t looking at them. There is no opportunity for a hug if you aren’t physically present. There is no way to read someone’s body language or tone unless you are face to face. Please stop texting people when you are in an argument with them. If you can’t do a face-to-face meeting, pick up the phone, but Christians, do the Bible. It will take less time and besides that you won’t be out of memory on your phone because you feel the need to hold on to all of the texts as evidence against the person for the next time you might not see eye-to-eye. I’m just sayin.
We need to confront people purposefully-What I mean by this is that first and foremost our purpose in all things should be to glorify God. “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31 We will get it more right than wrong when we are concerned first and foremost about advancing the glory of God.
Let me also say that unresolved conflict and running away from conflict and holding grudges, does not glorify God. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” God places such a high priority on peace between people that He wants us to take care of that before we would ever try to worship Him.
In addition to wanting to glorify God, identify what you want to achieve as a result of the meeting. Make sure it is a godly purpose and then go into the meeting with that purpose in mind, so you don’t lose sight of the purpose and get off on tangents that lead to muddied waters.
Finally, we should confront people peacefully. I’m going to give you some more strategies for doing so next week, but let’s agree that no Christian should be yelling or name calling or cussing at someone. And if we aren’t sure we can behave and discuss something in a self-controlled manner we might need to get some help with that. I know this: Peace won’t result from a war of words.
James 3:18 says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” If you want to reap something good from the confrontation, be sure to sow it and seed it with seeds of peace.
Here’s the bottom line takeaway: Remove the plank, get prepared and pass the peace.