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In 1 Samuel 12:1-25, the old prophet Samuel was at the end of his life. He had one more opportunity to appeal to the nation of Israel about their relationship with God. A few chapters earlier they were clear in that they did not want the Lord to rule over them (1 Samuel 8:1-9).
There are two main players in this scene–Samuel and the nation of Israel. I’m focusing on Samuel, the person doing the confronting rather than those who he is confronting.
You are Samuel.
The Lord was offering them a second chance—another opportunity to make a better decision. What if you were Samuel? What if your spouse (child or friend) was standing before you and God gave you another opportunity to steer him toward righteousness (Psalm 23:3)?
What would be going through your mind? What should be going through your mind as you confront any person with God’s truth? Here are three things for your consideration:
Too often confrontation connotes harshness, unkindness, stringent corrective measures, and conflict. Perhaps you had experienced some of those things when someone confronted you.
Confrontation does not have to consist of those things. Indeed, if your heart is not conditioned and directed by the love of God, your encounter with others can have more of an edge to it than it should. (I’m not discounting righteous anger, which may be a recourse. To read about righteous anger, please see the article at the top.)
And because these non-redemptive tendencies reside in all of us, it is worth our time and consideration to reflect on what our motives should be during times of confrontation.
Attitude of Love
One of the most important things to consider when confronting someone is your love for that person, which may be hard to possess, but the love of God must govern your heart no matter how difficult the person is in your life.
Love is how God begins His interactions with us: For God so loved the world (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). A divine perspective is the best attitude for you as you are confronting someone; it should form the foundation of your confrontation.
Gentle in Love
Too often our “confrontation moments” are motivated more by our frustration than our love (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Confrontation from a heart of sinful anger is a monumental misstep if your goal for the Lord to restore them.
This restoration perspective is the implication of Galatians 6:1, where Paul said we should use gentleness in our restoration of others.
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. – Galatians 6:1-2
History of Love
In 1 Samuel 12:1-6, Samuel is rehearsing in the ears of his friends how he had cared for them through the years. His heart of love for the people of Israel had been on display for decades. It was undeniable, and they knew it (1 Samuel 12:4).
I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me, and I will restore it to you. – 1 Samuel 12:2-3
Samuel had a deep affection for his brothers and sisters, which meant his confrontation of them was not the beginning of his relationship with them.
When it is time to correct someone, it is essential for that person to know you are for them (Romans 8:31), which is evidenced by the history that you have had with them. Without a loving history with them, they may not know about your affection for them. This idea is vital because at the time of correction, they may not feel your love as much as your discipline.
Now, therefore, stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord. – 1 Samuel 12:7
You can perceive Samuel’s affection for them by the language he used when he talked to them (1 Samuel 12:7). He was not yelling but pleading. He was not fussing, but confronting them out of a heart of love—a spirit that simultaneously had the purposes of God and their need in view.
Purpose for Love
Too often our fussing at people is tied to our selfish agendas for them. You must have a God-centered agenda. Samuel understood the redemptive purposes of the Lord, which transcended any personal plans he may have had for them.
When it’s no longer about what you want, the Lord releases you from trying too hard to change them or becoming too angry when the person chooses a path that is different from the one you hoped they would choose.
Four ideas shaped Samuel’s Christ-centered confrontation: attitude, gentleness, history, and purpose. How are you like Samuel when it comes to confronting others?
These four qualities positioned Samuel as the right man to bring the Lord’s message to His people. One of the most critical aspects of this Old Testament scenario is that Samuel was not “in the way” of what the Lord needed to accomplish.
For a person to experience conviction from the Lord, he must be in a distraction-free environment. If Samuel were an angry, yelling man or a highly critical, unloving woman, he would have been in the way, while interfering with the Lord’s work.
Imagine a child sinning and his dad yelling at him. The angry dad would be overshadowing the positive work that the Spirit of God could be doing in the child’s heart.
Because of Samuel’s loving affection for the Israelites, he was perfectly positioned to be “out of the way” of what needed to happen. They needed to experience the conviction of God, and the last thing in the world they needed was for Samuel messing up things by a bad attitude.
Are You Patient with Everyone?
The people of Israel needed a God-centered, cooperating man, not an interfering one. The sinning parent of the sinning child places two sinning people in the middle of the room, which relegates the Lord to non-factor status.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite. – Matthew 7:3-5
That is why it’s essential for you to take the measure of your heart by examining the love you have for the person you are confronting. If you honestly do not love the person you are engaging, in the heat of the moment your anger may ruin the Lord’s redemptive purposes.
Samuel’s love for them was stronger than their sin, which allowed the Israelites to be in a non-distracted place to experience God’s convicting power. God had a plan that the Israelites needed to hear, and God had a messenger who was mature enough to communicate that plan.
Even perfect processes and perfect attitudes will not guarantee a person will change. But you don’t want to presume against the Lord’s grace (Psalm 19:13) by doing anything you want to do while assuming the Lord will turn a blind eye to your lousy attitude and change the person you are confronting.
Change can be just as much about you as it is about the person you’re confronting. God is a multi-tasker; He can work in two hearts at the same time.
Samuel’s heart was in the right place. His desire was for the people of Israel to draw near to God so they could obtain the mercy they needed (Hebrews 4:14-16).
You see his affection all the way through his confrontation, even at the end where he lets them know that he will never cease from praying for them (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and he will always be willing to instruct them in the ways of the Lord.
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. – 1 Samuel 12:23
Samuel set the table. He had done his job. Then, Samuel assumed the position of prayer, asking the Lord God to grant repentance in their lives. He was fully aware that he could not change them. Long-term, lasting change is a gift from the Lord, not something you can conjure up or manipulate into an individual. If repentance comes, it will be the Lord who brings it to them.
The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26