A Surprising Aspect of Compassion

When you think about compassion, what comes to mind?

A surprising aspect is in confrontation. Helping the hurting and broken, yes, but also confronting the source and protecting others is also compassionate. Jesus did it, as did Paul, John, etc.

What’s compassionate confrontation like?

It can be telling a hard truth to someone before they go off the rails like Jesus did with Peter (Matt 16:23). Or after they went off the rails like Paul had to do with Peter (Galatians 2:11-21). Poor Peter.

You have to prepared for it. It takes humility and cannot be done with self-righteousness or self-serving condemnation. That means we can’t look forward to it; it has to pain us that it comes to this.

In a confrontation, it’s a spiritual battle within and without. Inside, before you can confront, you have to be aware of your own evil (Matt 7:3-5) and be able to be confronted with it. This self-confrontation and awareness of your own darkness lets you approach them on even ground, and tell them to stop. It makes your ‘no’ a humble ‘no’.

Why confront then?

James 5:19-20 calls for us to bring Christians that are wandering back. If you care for someone, you don’t continue to let them destroy themselves and their lives without saying something.

How do I confront then?

There’s a way to do it outlined in Matthew 18:15-17. A note though, this is about church discipline, I’m using it as a general pattern. First, you confront alone, not broadcasting it online or publically. Point out the problem, just the two of you.

If it doesn’t work, bring two or three impartial witnesses the next time. Why? The next step involves repercussions. In church discipline (rarely seen these days), the next step is to bring it to the church, and when the church approaches them, and they refuse to change, then they’ll be excommunicated. No longer seen as a Christian.

What if they’re not a believer?

That’s where the third step gets hard. It’s where you have to say, ‘I love you, but I won’t be around as long as you continue in this way.’

Isn’t that harsh?

There’s a redemptive quality to it, a chance to come back with conditions. In the Corinth church, a man was having sex with his stepmother. Paul told them to expel him, cutting him off from the aid of church (1 Cor. 5:1-5).


So he can hit rock bottom, and then want to come back. Which he did. 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 tells us this, along with the call to forgive, comfort, and reaffirm their love for him. As should we.

In a compassionate confrontation, it should be with the goal of reconciliation of the relationship and redemption of the person. That last part comes from Christ if they truly want to be saved from their self-destructive and harmful behaviors.

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