How to Respond When Confronted About Your Past
When we surrender our lives to Christ, we do it with the understanding that our past is forgiven. All our sins -- the dirt we’ve done, the mistakes we’ve made, God in His compassion, tramples them under His feet and throws them into the depths of the sea, never to be remembered again (Micah 7:19). Therefore, we can confidently declare Romans 8:1 which says, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” And so, having given our lives to Christ, we move forward with our hearts set on doing what pleases the Father. Simply put, we aim to do right.
But then there are those who come along and try to cast doubt on our new life: critics and skeptics in the form of ex factors, friends, family, maybe coworkers -- all of whom are privy to pieces of our past. Their inability to understand our reconciliation with Christ causes them to meet our salvation with doubt, and even disdain. Oftentimes, their response to our desire to move forward, is to dangle our past in front of us. It’s a gesture that can have damaging effects, and if we are not adequately prepared, the way in which we respond can be just as damaging.
So, how should we respond when someone brings up our past and brings our salvation into question?
Don’t get angry. When people bring up the very things we’ve tried to put behind us, it has a way of stirring up something on the inside: hurt, disbelief, and perhaps a dose of guilt. If we’re not careful, the culmination of these feelings can lead to an outward manifestation of anger. But Psalm 37:9 NLT warns us not to lose our temper because it only leads to harm. What kind of harm? When we’re quick tempered, we don’t produce the kind of righteousness that God wants to see in us. Delivering a cutting and punchy clapback, while it might sound like a good idea, will quickly derail our hopes of doing right, and in the end, give people the wrong impression about what it means to be a Christian.
Listen. When people underestimate our confession by hitting us with accusations from our past, we can easily respond out of anger as I mentioned before, or we can ignore them. But I believe the best response is found in James 1:19 KJV which says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
Sometimes, what people are really saying is not in the words we hear, but in the ones we don’t. If we listen intently, putting our emotions aside, we might find that what our friends, family members or coworkers are saying is this:
“I’m having a hard time making sense of God’s forgiveness. I know what you did. I know what I’ve done, and it seems too easy for it all to just go away with a confession. There has to be a catch.”
“You’ve moved on with your new life, but you’ve left me behind. You’re free, but I’m still burdened, and I feel like I’m by myself.”
“I’m hurting, and I don’t know how to process my own convictions, so I cope by trying to hurt you, discourage you and discredit you.”
In our own strength, listening to our critics and skeptics can be difficult. But here is where we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us (I John 2:27). Not only will the Spirit enable us to be still in times like these, but He will also bring back to our remembrance the Word of God (John 14:26), and direct us on how we should respond, turning our opposition into a testimony.
“But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!”
– Luke 21:13-15
Respond in love. When we are led by the Holy Spirit, He will not let us respond any other way. By delivering a gentle response, we can deflect any anger that may be present (Proverbs 15:1), and keep our conscience clear knowing we have not returned hurt for hurt or misrepresented the name of Christ. (I Peter 3:15-16).
The amazing part about being confronted by people who are dealing with the guilt of sin or feeling abandoned because we’ve moved forward in Christ without them is that it’s a situation to which we can all relate. We haven’t always been saved. We’ve also been burdened by guilt and left behind. So, when responding to those who question our faith with respect to our past, we can truthfully say “I understand how you feel.” These words can help take people off the defensive and make them more receptive to the Truth:
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (Romans 10:9-11 NLT)
“and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:20-22)
“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (Isaiah 44:22 NLT)
“For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.” (I John 5:4 NLT)
As hurtful and as uncomfortable as it is to be reminded of our past, and have our faith in God brought into question, there is always an appropriate way to respond. Try using the tips above and remember this: never let anyone make you doubt a decision you made in faith.