When Is It Time to Speak Up?
by Leslie Vernick
Do you ever read the Bible and feel like it says two different things?
For example, Jesus commands us to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us (Luke 6). He even said that people would recognize Christians by their love for one another. (John 13:35) And Romans 12:18 says, “As far as it depends on you, be at peace with one another.”
On the other hand, the Bible says to admonish the unruly (1 Thess. 5:14), speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and to confront sin, going to the person who has sinned against us (Matthew 18).
So, is the Bible saying two different things? When do you stay quiet and “be at peace” and when do you admonish and confront sin?
Scripture does not contradict itself. There is a time to practice patience and forbearance and there’s a time to confront. But, before doing either, it’s important to define biblical forbearance and biblical confrontation.
Forbearing means we learn to extend grace and live with another person’s weaknesses (because we all have them). It’s an important spiritual discipline. Jesus reminds us to take the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck in someone else's eye (Matthew 7:4).
However, forbearance is not weakness. It’s not passive. And it’s definitely not burying hurt feelings and growing bitter inside while keeping an illusion of peace. Forbearing means you are actively working to understand, accept, and forgive an offense without ever talking to the person about it.
Biblical confrontation isn’t blowing up and “letting it all out” when you’ve had enough. Remember, Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger, do not sin.” Raging at someone, (even if you’re “right”) completely disregards the other person and the relationship.
Biblical confrontation has four elements: prayer, preparation, practice, and a plan. Take the time to plan for the right time and place and know exactly what you’re going to say. And, remember, hard words don’t have to be harsh words.
There are three times when I believe confrontation is in order: