If you have ever found great solace in praying the Psalms of David, you have Nathan to thank. Had he not been brave enough to confront his friend, who knows where David may have ended up.
Though we neither talk about him often nor know much about him, we are indebted to Nathan’s faithfulness and responsiveness to the Lord in the highly undesirable task of confronting David (2 Samuel 12) after his flop into adultery and subsequent cover-up attempt.
In a culture that touts tolerance and choice as the highest values, there is a desperate need in the Church for Nathans, those friends who are willing to lovingly point out blindspots or sinspots in our lives.
My husband is a Nathan to me when he points out the puddle of self-pity I sink into cyclically. Likewise, my mom friends act as necessary Nathans to me when they pull me back from my exaggerated pendulum swings between training and treasuring my children.
I am a Nathan to the young ladies I mentor when I tremblingly poke around and point toward destructive patterns in their lives. With my own children, I play the role of Nathan by relationally but firmly addressing their germinal sinful tendencies that, left unquestioned or ignored, would destroy them later in life.
In the course of the faithful Christian life, we will need both to be and to receive Nathans until that glorious day when sin and brokenness will be no more.
Being a Nathan
God neither commnds nor desires His children to be whistle-carrying Junior Holy Spirit types. The Spirit of God is powerful enough, and He will blow where He pleases (John 3:8). He, not we, will convict in regards to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). That being said, often the Lord speaks through His children, asking them to step in as trembling yet willing vessels.
Matthew 18 clearly lays out the protocol for conflict and confrontation within the body of Christ, straight from the mouth of Jesus. Straight forward, yes. Easy, no.
The Apostle Paul, who had more than his fair share of experience in the confrontation department, offered advice to the young Churches he coached on confronting one another in love and humility. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1). Paul realized how quickly the sin of the brother could be overshadowed by the confronter’s sin of pride or superiority.
I do not picture Nathan chomping at the bit to confront David, the powerful ruler who has just had Uriah killed in an attempt to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. Rather, I imagine Nathan wrestling with the Lord over this assignment, spending many sleeples nights praying and pondering if there might be another prophet or friend willing to take this terrifying task.
Yet, in trembling faithfulness to God who prompted him and in a love for David strong enough to wound him, he boldly approached him. Nathan was willing to uncover his friend’s sin that he might be covered in forgiveness and restored.
Thankfully, David received the wounds of a friend in a Spirit-filled way, responding with the flood of earnest repentance that we know as Psalm 51. Perhaps Solomon was taught Proverbs 27: 5-6 firsthand by his father David who had learned it firsthand in his experience with Nathan.
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
God uses Nathans for course correction and restoration in our lives, just as He did so powerfully and poignantly in the life of David. We all need a trusted few in our lives who love us enough to offer us the corrective wounds of a friend over the little or the large sin patterns in our lies.
Receiving a Nathan
While none of us want to find ourselves on the receiving end of loving gospel-saturated confrontation, life in sinful bodies on a fallen globe assures us we will, indeed, sit in that scary seat from time to time.
I love David’s succint response to Nathan. No lengthy justifications, no excuses, just, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). David received what his friend came to say, then took it to the Lord (see Psalms 32 and 51).
Not everyone who confronts us will be a Nathan sent directly by the Lord; sometimes people will approach with false or misinformed accusations. It is our job to listen humbly to what is said and lay it before the Lord and the Word. Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139).
If, however, there are even seeds of truth in what has been said, we have been given an incredible, though often unwanted gift: an opportunity to repent and run to the Lord. As David wrote so beautifully and experienced so personally, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered….I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin'” (Psalm 32:1 & 5).
In the moments of confrontation, we may be pulsing more with defensiveness than gratitude; however, we would do well to take a moment to remember that Nathans are gifts from God.
It is a rare treasure to have friends who who love us enough to hold us to being and becoming the glory selves that God has intended for us since before the foundation of the world.
In a culture that tends to know only two ways, false flattery or brutal honesty, believers have an opporunity to display the gospel by way of loving, gospel-saturated confrontation.