A Congregation that Confronts
by John Welkner
Early on in his reign Israel’s first king, Saul, was trying to do what he had been commissioned to do by the Lord - delivering God's people from the oppression of the Philistines. However, he soon found himself hard pressed so that by chapter 13 of 1 Samuel an army as numerous as the sand on the sea shore had him cornered. Samuel had been called, but had not come, Philistines were breathing down his neck, and his troops were deserting left and right. So in desperation,
[Saul] said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings. " And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. "What have you done?" asked Samuel. Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command." Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred. 1 Samuel 13:9-15
Saul, it seems, has been instructed by Samuel to wait for him - in order that Samuel might seek the Lord’s favor in this time of national crisis. But with troops scattering, Saul took matters into his own hands. In panic, Saul looks at his desperate circumstances and instead of trusting and waiting, he reverts back to the line heard again and again in the book of Judges - he did what was right in his own eyes.
Then Samuel showed up - “what have you done?” the prophet asked... and Saul’s many excuses came. “The men were scattering, and you didn’t come on time, and the Philistines were assembling against me, and I had not sought the Lords favor”. Reading this, I found myself definitely able to sympathize with Saul. When I’m in a crisis my first thoughts often turn to self-preservation rather than to obedience, or even worse, sacrifice. When finances are tight, obedience to generous and sacrificial giving doesn’t make fiscal sense - no obedience, self-preservation! When conflict arises, loving humility seems stupid...because - I’m right...no compassion - self preservation!
When confronted, Saul had no shortage of excuses! He blamed: his soldiers for running, Samuel for being late, the Philistines for being mean, the Lord for withholding His blessing! ‘What have you done Saul?’ “Me? -No, everyone else!” While we shake our heads at Saul, someone should ask us what we do when we are confronted with our own sin? Are you quick to dress up your disobedience with religious sounding excuses? Are you easily offended? Do you immediately find someone else to blame? Anything but humble admission, repentance and seeking forgiveness.
You might be thinking, I can’t remember the last time someone confronted me about sin in my life... Friend, that’s not because you have reached sinless perfection! Perhaps it is because you’ve responded so defensively that brothers and sisters have left off the loving confrontation of sin in your life that would do you great spiritual good!
To help us here’s some key words to keep in mind when confronting sin we see in others,
Humility - Remember, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8) We approach confrontation with the humble recognition that we too stumble and fall in many ways. We do not approach confrontation wearing our Mr. Pious pants - we come with humility. Before confronting, pray for humility.
Love - Remember, Jesus gave us a new command, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Are we approaching confrontation with the mindset of a victim seeking vengeance or justice? This will not lead to loving confrontation, it often leads to relationship destruction! Before confronting, pray for love.
Grace - Remember, “If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent--not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” (2Corinthians 2:5-8). Your desire as you confront sin in a brother or sister is their restoration - not their destruction. Isn’t it? Unfortunately this part of confronting sin can’t be guaranteed. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to produce repentance and restore faith in the gospel. Before confronting, pray for a powerful work of God's grace in your brother or sisters life.
Andy Naselli writes, “You can’t control how all other Christians confront you, but you are responsible for how you confront others. So when you confront others, do it in a way that serves them.”
Brothers and sisters, one of the most loving things you could do for one another is to lovingly, gently confront sin visible in one another’s lives. Let it not be an endangered species in this church. We don’t want the verdict pronounced over Saul said of us,
"You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you..."
Because of Saul’s disobedience - his kingdom would not endure...And who has the Lord sought? “A man after His own heart”. Could that be said of you?
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