The following is an edited transcript from the ACBC podcast Truth in Love.
Heath: Amy, this week on the podcast we’re talking about arrogant people. In particular we are talking about the kind of person that many of us know who in their arrogance refuse to admit when they are wrong. They just don’t see it. They deny it. They ignore it. This is a problem that causes tons of frustration in the lives of many people, doesn’t it?
Amy: Yeah, I would say that this is a really hard place to be in when you’re in a relationship with someone who is blind to their own pride. Maybe you’ve even confronted them about it and they say, “I don’t see anything wrong. I don’t understand where you’re coming from.” So how would you say that we should handle this situation?
Heath: The first thing I would say about this is that we should try to see that arrogant person, who won’t listen to correction or who won’t admit that they’re in sin, as something of a gift to us. This person is giving us an example of what not to be. As we interact with them we’re seeing, “Hey, this is where this kind of stiff-necked, hard heart response gets you.” Because of their example, we want to fight that attitude. As a result, it can serve as a blessing in our life to fight against the sin we see in someone else’s.
What that means is when someone comes to you to confront you, it’s an opportunity for you to avoid being like this person that you’re concerned about. So this person should remind us to look for opportunities to confess our sins. We all can fall prey to this temptation of denial and self-justification and so the gift of dealing with this kind of person is that it reminds us not to be that way. And when people approach us and say, “I’m concerned with something you did. Here’s what you did that was wrong,” it reminds us to really think hard about saying, “Lord, show me my sin. Help me to be honest. Reveal to me where there’s a wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24) It helps us to be the kind of people who are cultivating a readiness to confess our own sin.
I would also say, portray the humility that you want to see from them. So the problem is they don’t admit that they’re wrong. They never confess their sin. They never change. Well one way that you could sort of disarm them is to communicate to them in very personal terms about areas where you struggle, areas where you have sinned, areas where you’ve had a hard heart, areas where you’ve had to wrestle with the same kinds of things or the same kind of way that this person is struggling with.
It’s the model of David and Nathan. Nathan is able to soften David’s defenses in the aftermath of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah by helping him to think about a sinful situation with somebody else that David’s never heard of before. As David looked at that situation and evaluated it in another person’s life he felt a level of justice about it that he wouldn’t have felt perhaps if Nathan had just confronted him with his own sin. We can do that same thing. We can help people soften the defenses of their heart by sharing very personally about our own struggles, by opening up and setting the tone and precedent by say, “Hey, let me tell you where I struggle. Let me tell you what the Lord has taught me.” We pray this will help someone feel more comfortable and safe in an environment where they can be honest about their own struggles and sins.
If this person is still unable to see their sin and repent, then the Bible encourages us to go and try to point out the sins of people with help. So Jesus in Matthew 18 says, if your brother sins go and show him his fault just between you and him alone and if he listens, great, then you’ve won your brother. However, if he doesn’t listen to you take a few others along with you. So Jesus is encouraging a very practical means. You’ve got somebody who is guilty of sin, they’re not listening to you, Jesus says raise the stakes a little bit. Bring some people along with you who can testify to the truthfulness of what you are saying and who can testify to the sinfulness of the danger this person is in. Don’t struggle alone trying to help this person see their sin but get some help. Bring some others along with you to win it out.
Another thing I would say is pray. I think in many ways this is the hardest problem. You can fix any problem by God’s grace if someone will admit their problem and listen to counsel. If someone is going to be hard-headed, stiff-necked, and refuse to listen to what you have to say then it doesn’t matter if the problem is relatively small or relatively big. They’re going to be stuck because they never admit it. This reminds us that the Lord is sovereign over the human heart. I’m not even sovereign over my own heart much less over the heart of Christians that I care about. God is in control of our hearts and so we need to pray to the Lord over the human heart and ask him to do what only he can do. James tells us that we don’t have because we don’t ask. So lets ask, “Lord, would you change the heart of this man? Would you soften the heart of this woman? Would you be God in this situation and change them?”
As we pray I think that reminds us to trust the Lord with this person. Isaiah had a really hard ministry. He was told in Isaiah 6 that he would preach to people that would never ever listen to him. Isaiah was faithful to preach and teach the truth even when people refused to listen. Isaiah was confident that the Word of God never went out and returned void. He knew the Lord was accomplishing his good purposes in the preaching of the truth even when people didn’t receive it well. So we can trust that when the Lord uses our involvement in the life of someone to stiffen their neck or to soften their heart, he is working his good purposes in their life and in ours too. Even when we’re frustrated with a hard, sinful heart we can still have confidence that a good God is working in it to accomplish good things.
We exist at ACBC because we want the church to grow up in their ability to care for one another as we deal with life’s problems. We want you to nurture this skill, we want the people at your church to nurture this skill and one of the ways that we do that is by offering training in how to do counseling and discipleship.