When should I confront a brother?

A few days ago, I came across a question, “when is an issue important enough to correct someone?”

The issue in that post seemed to be centered on correcting incorrect information (e.g., if something is not true, how often and when should I attempt to correct it?), and in that regard was helpful.

However, that triggered a further question in my mind:  what if the issue is greater than correcting information in a conversation?  What about sin that I see others commit?  Should I correct every sin of every individual I ever see?  How and when should I act?  And are there definitive passages that guide my thinking in making that determination?

To that end, I put together this flow chart to help me think through what my responsibilities are when I see someone sin (or see someone do something that I initially perceive is sin, though it may not be).

There are obvious limitations to any chart, so here are some limitations of this chart:

  • This chart does not consider the role of the weaker brother (Rom. 14).
  • This chart does not consider how eventual confrontation might be conducted (e.g., what will be said, how will it be said?…).
  • This chart is attempting to clarify the difference between a genuine freedom issue and real sin.  A couple of thoughts about that:
    • The question “is the issue indisputably sinful” seems to be a restatement of the first question, but it is repeated to encourage us to evaluate whether the issue is genuinely a sin or whether it is merely preference.  One tendency is for believers to think (legalistically) that any “offense” taken is always sin; very often it may simply be a preference that has no moral implications.
    • The questions about freedom are given to encourage us to think about whether an issue really is a freedom in Christ or whether we are living licentiously.  Another tendency among believers is to think that because of Christ all commands in Scripture become optional.  (As an example a friend told me this weekend of a believer he knew who chose to marry an unbeliever under this banner of liberty.  Believers being unequally yoked to unbelievers is not liberty; it is license and sin.)
  • This chart does not expand how confrontation should be done.  Even if there is reason to confront a believer, the mature believer is the one who does it with wisdom — asking questions to clarify both what was done and the motives behind the action (Prov. 18:13).  And responding with wisdom also means that the “confrontation” is done with gentleness (Prov. 15:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26) so that my words and conduct give grace and build up my Christian brother (Eph. 4:29, 32).

Download the PDF.

Two other resources that I have found particularly helpful on this topic:

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