When to Confront or When to Cover?

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 

I’ve been reminded recently about the power of bitterness, and the obscuring effects of holding a grudge.  It is a powerful thing!  It is painful to be wronged by someone, especially those we trust and care for.  Nevertheless, in this sinful world, it is bound to happen – even by those who are spiritually mature.  What is the right response for the believer?  When I’m sinned against, is my sinful response the solution?  (Matt. 5:9, 38-42)  Or, on another front, does Scripture demand that I always confront the person who has sinned against me?  These are important questions as we face conflict in our relationships.  How can God’s wisdom help us navigate these waters?

man covering his face with both hands

Option A: Loving confrontation.  There is certainly an appropriate time for loving, non-hypocritical, gentle confrontation.  The key passages commending this would be Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6:1, Matthew 7:5, and James 5:19, Leviticus 19:17-18.  This is an important aspect of discipleship, and when done rightly, is a loving thing to do.  I would suggest this should be our response if: we are spiritually prepared, the offense is repeated or particularly hurtful, if the offense indicates a broader problem between the person and the Lord, and if we simply can’t genuinely do option B.

Option B: There is a unique thread running through Scripture that focuses on one aspect of loving others.  It can be summed up, “Love covers all transgressions.”  The contrast in Proverbs 10:12 is insightful.  When there is a grudge, bitterness and hatred – it tends to “stir up strife.”  One writer says, “Here personified hatred awakens…now aroused and fully active, the conflicts spill over into violent clashes between the wronged and the wrongdoer.”1  Sound familiar?  Siblings, spouses, co-workers, teammates, traffic-jam buddies have all experienced this.  With hatred in the heart, any relationship will trend in a bad direction.  But the converse is true if love is in the heart.  And this is possible even when sinned against.  Love conversely “covers.” “conceals,” or “draws a veil over” all transgressions.  “Instead of placing the transgressor on stage and withdrawing the veil to expose his faults and so exact revenge, love endures his wrongs to reconcile him…and to preserve the peace.2

More on this to come…but a couple questions for self-reflection: 1) As a Christian, am I bearing a grudge and hatred towards someone – even casually?  2) How has it affected me and obscured my relationship?  3) Should I…can I…confront in love?  4) Or, should I…can I…cover in love?  Or perhaps both, in the proper order?  Because of God’s great love for us – covering our sins by the blood of Christ – we can “cover” sins against us, with the ability to forgive and move forward in love. (Psalm 103:11-12, Matthew 18:21-35)

Thanks! See you Sunday,

Pastor Dave

[1] Bruke Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2004), 461.

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