Complicity Versus Confrontation

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"The great privilege of leadership is in influencing other people’s lives. The grave responsibility of leadership is confronting sin in people’s lives. This is part of the price of leadership. Complicity is knowing about immoral, illegal, or unethical activity and covering it up through silence. It is saying nothing when something should be said.

Those who accept the privilege of leading must also accept the responsibility. Invested leaders help mold and shape the actions and attitudes of those they lead. They offer correction as needed, especially if certain actions and attitudes negatively impact the lives of others. Leaders set the moral and spiritual tone for what happens around them.

The Old Testament prophet Eli is an example of a leader who refused to confront the sins of his own sons. As a result, God punished the sons and held Eli responsible for his silence. (1 Sam. 2:22–36)

It takes courage and kindness to confront people in the right way. No mature leader—whether a father, mother, manager, teacher, coach, mentor, or spiritual leader—enjoys confrontation. What could cause a leader to fail to confront people when needed? Most often, it is dependence on the approval of others.

In the Maxwell Leadership Bible, John Maxwell says courageous leaders are willing to do “the unpopular to accomplish the unforgettable.”

Jesus could confront people in the temple because He did not need their approval. He was not leading out of a desire to be accepted by people. He was secure in His identity as a servant leader and therefore, courageous and free to commit to righteousness.

When Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple, those with spiritual discernment knew He was a loving shepherd who was serious about confronting injustice.

People feel safe when they know their leaders will speak up for them, defend them, and not allow false teachers, false prophets, or unethical people to harass them or divide the church.

How did driving the money-changers out of the temple show good leadership?

  • A strong leader defends his followers, as well as the marginalized and oppressed.
  • A loving leader stands up for the underdog.
  • A courageous leader won’t allow anyone to hinder his people from having the opportunity to worship freely.
  • A godly leader speaks out against economic injustice.
  • A God-fearing leader won’t allow conflict of interest.
  • A Kingdom leader will not be complicit with sin.
  • A discerning leader will not allow others under them to compromise their reputation by remaining silent, rather than speaking the truth in love.

I recently received a letter from a young man, thanking me for confronting him. Two years prior, he had been allowing a serious compromise in his life to continue unchecked (and was quite boastful about it). I knew I could not simply turn a blind eye. Accepting this responsibility wasn’t easy. I had to be willing to face a potentially uncomfortable conversation. It meant setting aside time for many meetings with him, as well as spending hours in prayer and Bible study to make sure my attitude and scriptural position was in line. The young man was very popular in our community and everyone was watching to see how I handled the situation.

The invested hours proved fruitful and the man was rescued from deception. The situation also provided an opportunity to model how to be patient, yet firm—both to the young man and to those looking on.

There is a great pressure in our society not to be a “snitch.” Young people are especially under pressure not to “tell on” others. It’s true, there is a right way and wrong way to bring things to light. We need to pray before speaking to discern whether our motives are pure or impure. Our motivation should not be self-righteous, or to point a finger. But God’s Word is clear: if we know about sin in people’s lives yet remain silent, we are an accomplice to the sin in God’s eyes.

What might prevent you from speaking up about sin? Ask God to search your heart and reveal any insecurity or need for approval (see lesson one). It is important to teach this principle to those we lead, to arm them for the day when they will be tempted to commit the sin of complicity.

How could you go about training those you lead to appreciate this important leadership lesson?"

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