15 February 2008

Loving Confrontation - It's not for Cowards


In my earlier post on confrontation, I talked about the bad reputation confrontation has, and why we need to rethink letting the world tell us it is bad. We need to quit taking advice from the world in all matters, but that's another post for another day. I fear this post is going to be lengthy enough and difficult to get done.

Confrontation is a complex issue that takes wisdom and discernment. When done correctly, it is about restoration and reconciliation, strengthening and challenging. It means loving someone enough to tell them the hard things they don't want to hear in a way that removes their defenses and leaves them with only two choices; continue in sin or repent. It also means being willing to get into the trenches with them and fight the good fight and not condemning when failure occurs. Although it can yield instantaneous results as Nathan's confrontation of David did, more often it is a process. If you're going to confront someone, you need to be in for the long haul. You see, confrontation is more than telling someone they are wrong, it is also encouraging them to live rightly. It is more about being a 'cheerleader' than being the 'behavior police.'

I want to reveal my bias to you now. I disdain what I call "drive-by exhortations." I am talking about the tendency for someone sitting on the periphery of a person's life, who disagrees with what they are seeing, or think they are seeing and who, without benefit of dialog, slaps a couple of Bible verses down and runs away. More often than not they run to a pastor or church elder and in the name of 'genuine Christian love' disclose their concerns anonymously. If you cannot stomach confrontation- do not ask someone else to do it for you or hide behind anonymity. Cheap shots and cheap grace seem to go together. It seems impossible to me that a true understanding of the Word of God would lead someone to believe that it is their Christian duty to hide behind anonymity when making accusations about a person's behavior (and yes I include anonymous blog comments in this, if they are accusatory). Check you heart and see if you aren't using the opportunity to gossip about or defame someone 'in the name of Christ.' Proverbs 11:9 With {his} mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.

I wish there was a formula on exactly how to successfully confront or exhort someone. The sad truth is, the most godly confrontation does not guarantee immediate repentance or appreciation. My heart has broken more than once as I confronted someone who did not receive it well. On occasion, the Lord has been merciful to me and I have seen wonderful fruit despite initial rejection of what I said. One student in particular that I worked with studiously avoided me for months, harboring bitterness toward me. Some six months later she came to me in tears and told me I had been right in confronting her. That was a gift- for both of us. You see, the standard is the Word of God for both receiving and giving exhortation-and- the results are up to the Holy Spirit, not you.

There is a framework we are given in the Word; principles we should follow, but if you're looking for more than that from me, I am going to disappoint you. The biblical principles hold true in all areas but the finer details are going to be different. I want to be very clear, I am not talking about church discipline here. Matthew 18:15-18 gives clear direction for church discipline. I am talking about the life on life encouragement and confrontation we are called to do as believers. While it is possible that something you are confronting a brother or sister about may lead to church discipline, it is not a certainty. There is a difference between being in full rebellion against God and knowing it and struggling in an area and needing guidance. That said, here is the framework I use. I begin with checking myself by God's standards.

Anger has no place in confrontation. Our anger is not generally born of holiness. When we are angry our flesh rises up and those unsanctified thoughts of ours go rolling off our tongues. Confrontation needs to be done in a timely fashion but if your anger is out of control, it is best you leave the situation alone. James 1:19-20 {This} you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak {and} slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Before you speak, take care of that log and speck thing Jesus warned us about.
Luke 6:41-42 "And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

Details. Didn't someone once say the Devil is in the details? Know what you're talking about and to be familiar with the one you're going to confront. Proverbs 18:13 says "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." Far too often we want to communicate our opinion or what we think the problem is before the problem has truly been identified. You also need to know the whole story. Proverbs 18:17 The first to plead his case {seems} just, {until} another comes and examines him. Remember, in absence of evidence to the contrary, love believes all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

The goal of confrontation is to help the other person see God and His standards more clearly. It is to help them put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4). You are not trying to punish, demean or break someone. Please, please, please never forget it is His kindness that leads us to repentance. Read Ephesians 2 and Romans 2 until you understand what kindnesses and mercy God has bestowed on you in Christ.

If you have managed to read this far, I hope you are thinking that confrontation is a lot of work and a lot of responsibility. If you aren't thinking that, I haven't communicated the subject matter correctly.


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