Hard Conversations: Questions to Ask Before Confronting Someone About Sin

iStock-669989942Hard Conversations: Questions to Ask Before Confronting Someone About Sin


Have you ever heard of “yes man” culture? It’s the idea that certain friend groups, churches, work offices, or school teams are filled with people who always say “yes” or agree with everyone all the time. Everything is okay. Everything is acceptable.

In these cultures, the word “no” is not heard. And people tend to find themselves in a world of hurt and trouble.

Think of a popular celebrity who has experienced a front-page news scandal. It’s likely this person was surrounded by yes men. No one was brave enough to confront the celebrity about his inappropriate behaviors or sins…and now he’s having to face the consequences.

Christians fall into this same pattern. We struggle to determine when we should simply love one another and when we should speak truth in love.

There’s a good reason for this struggle. Christians have earned a reputation for being a tad judgmental.

Redeeming Love argues, “Since we feel we have a corner on the truth and that we are the ones who are always right, this makes us believe that it is our responsibility to be the world’s policemen, going around pointing out where people are wrong and how they are sinning. This is rarely received well by anyone, especially when we have glaringly obvious sins in our own life.”

It isn’t our job to address every infraction we come across. However, the Bible does make it clear that there are times when we should confront someone about their sin.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. - Galatians 6:1-5

The next time you are wondering if you should confront someone about sin, ask yourself the following questions.

Are You Just Being Critical?

Before you confront anyone, you must ask yourself if there is a justifiable reason. Sometimes the things we want to confront someone about are more of a reflection of our heart than theirs. For example, are you just being critical of how they behave or act? Or is the person actually sinning?

Christianity Today shares, “The key distinction between recognizing behavior that's ungodly and passing judgment on others is the posture of our heart.”

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen

– Ephesians 4:29

How Serious Is It?

All sin is serious. However, there are sometimes where the hard conversation may seem more urgent. For example, a one time sin is different than a pattern of sin. Do you confront someone because you heard them swear one time or someone who has a pattern of using hurtful language to insult others?

Pursue God claims, “You can overlook minor offenses. A minor offense is something that doesn’t dishonor God, doesn’t damage your relationship with that person, doesn’t damage other people, and doesn’t hurt that person’s testimony.”

At the same time, anything that would pass for more than a “minor offense” should be addressed.

What is the Goal?

Why do you feel the need to have this difficult conversation? It’s important to be honest with ourselves about our hope in having this conversation.

Christianity Today suggests, “Have we appointed ourselves the ‘moral police’ so as to justify examining blemishes in everyone else's behavior? Is our ultimate goal to help restore prodigals into a redemptive relationship with Jesus, or do we have a hidden agenda to elevate ourselves by condemning those around us?”

At our church, we always teach that the end goal of confronting sin in the life of an individual is restoration. Every. Single. Time.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. – Matthew 18:15

Have You Taken the Plank Out of Your Own Eye?

Before you confront anyone, you must check your own heart first.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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? 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? 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.” – Matthew 7:1-5

Again, make sure the reason you want to confront this individual is indeed because of their sin and not your own heart.

Then, take a good hard look at your own sins. Confess these sins and repent of them, then determine if you still need to have a conversation with this individual.

Have You Prayed About It?

Not sure if you should confront someone? Pray about it. Pray for wisdom. Ask God to give you guidance to know whether you should have this hard talk or if it would be better coming from someone else. Pray that He reveals any selfish motives you may have before you approach the individual.

Can You Keep the Conversation Christ-Centered?

Another way to discern whether you need to have this confrontation is to determine if you can keep it Christ-centered the whole time. In other words, will everything you say point back to scripture? Are there verses you can use to point out sin, as well as encourage the individual and point towards restoration? If not, put the confrontation on pause.

According to Crossway, “When confronting a friend, base your concerns on clear biblical truth. The standard of righteous living is the word of God and not your personal opinions. Your role as a fellow-believer is to remind or inform your friend of what Scripture says about her sin and her need to turn from it. Instead of trying to convince her with your own arguments, discuss Scripture with her and trust the Holy Spirit to convict her according to the truth of his word (Ez. 36:27; 1 Tim. 3:16–17).”