Editorial: Nathans Needed

Confrontation. There are people who can do it and people who shouldn’t. It’s usually those who shouldn’t that do, while those who can are reluctant. Unfortunately, the world is filled with people who believe their calling in life is to straighten out everyone else while ignoring their own glaring issues. Meanwhile, those who possess the character and skill to confront effectively, hesitate. Why does such hesitancy occur?

Fear. We fear rejection. We fear an explosive reaction in anger. We fear the loss of relationships. Yet what does it say about the depth and fragility of our relationships should a single warranted confrontation destroy it? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God’s Word demands it …. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked.”[1]

Not everyone needs to be confronted about everything. But when we sin and are going astray, we need a truth-teller with the courage to confront us.

Perhaps no confrontation in all of Scripture was as effective as the prophet Nathan’s with King David after he had sinned so egregiously. David’s reaction was immediately contrite and exactly what anyone who has ever confronted someone before could possibly hope for. After Nathan’s masterful indictment in speaking truth to power, David’s response included the only words appropriate for the occasion: “I have sinned against the Lord” (2Sa 12:13).

Let’s examine the reasons why this confrontation was so successful and follow these principles ourselves when we admonish others.

First, confront with the Lord’s guidance. The Bible says that “the Lord sent Nathan unto David” (2Sa 12:1). Make sure you are sent. Pray about the situation and ask the Lord to give you the right opportunity.

Second, confront with courage. Knowing that he was sent, Nathan boldly delivered his message, standing face to face with the most powerful man in the world. Once the Lord gives you the opportunity, move forward with courage and pray for the Lord’s help. Also, avoid the temptation to confront in the presence of other people or behind a computer screen or smart phone. Meet face to face as Nathan did with David.

Third, confront with facts. Don’t approach with hearsay or begin making unfounded accusations. Take the time to get the facts. Love for your fellow believer should motivate you to do so.

Fourth, confront with skill. Nathan expertly crafted the story about the little lamb, naturally drawing David, the shepherd, into the story. Nathan did not go in with guns blazing but with measured words and impressive skill. Take the time to think carefully of exactly what you will say and how you will say it before you confront.

Finally, confront with humility. Nathan didn’t arrive with a “holier-than-thou” attitude nor with judgmental words such as, “David, you should be ashamed of yourself.” He spoke the right words in the right spirit. “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” (Gal 6:1 ESV).

There will never be a lack of people who need rebuked for going astray. But sadly, Nathans are in short supply. While sin is going unchecked and ungodly behavior tolerated, Nathans are desperately needed. Will you be one?

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005), 105.