Friday, December 9, 2011

Eggshells and Combat Boots - A look at Biblical confrontation.

One of these days, I think I'm going to write a post about how certain books of the Bible have unexpected endings. You've got 1 John, which doesn't end like most letters with a "sincerely" or "yours truly", but instead says "Little children, guard yourselves from idols." After 21 chapters of Judges, where God uses men to rescue and guide His people time and time again, the writer dusts off his hands with the sentence, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." And then there's Jonah, with some of the best drama of any Sunday School story. God asks Jonah a funny rhetorical question before you turn the page to Micah and realize the book has ended. 

I think the book of James also has an unexpected ending. James tells his readers to be humble, mature, and concerned more with spiritual rather than financial growth. Then he signs off by telling them, "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." 

This got me thinking about how Christians approach confrontation. I grew up around some people who knew we were at war, and war was all hell. The people around me took James's advice by shouting, gossiping, or in one lady's case, trying to exorcise me. No kidding. 

And then you've got the Christians who swing to the opposite extreme. They don't want to appear judgmental. They don't want to offend people or scare them away from Christianity. They saw the movie Saved and decided they didn't ever want to look like these girls.

So how do we take James's advice without becoming spiritual lunatics? First, as always, I recommend praying. Ask God how to talk with someone and then listen for what He tells you. James opens his book by telling people to ask God for wisdom, so I assume that would apply well to these situations. Second, there's always the Matthew 18 model of confrontation. Discuss the problem with the person in private, then with a trusted third party, and then only in public if the person refuses to change. The third thing to keep in mind when confronting people is Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." If these attributes aren't at the heart of your confrontation, it may be good for you to step back and reevaluate your approach. 

How do you feel about confrontation? Do you tend to walk on eggshells or walk all over people?

1 comment:

MorsIndutus said...

I think, as with most things, there is a balance, and it may swing more one way or the other based on the situation, as the Spirit leads. People who always walk on eggshells to not offend are just as bad as people who are always in your face, although they tend to be less annoying. Just keep in mind that you can confront with words that flow as from the mouths of angels, if you're not coming from a place of love you're just going to come off as so much unpleasant noise.

There is also a difference between confronting a brother or sister (IE, fellow Christian) and confronting a non-believer. The Bible is strangely quiet about what to do in the face of non-believers, short of trying to live in peace with them and praying for them when the persecute you.

Before you confront someone, ask yourself what you want to get out of the confrontation. Make sure you're coming from a place of love and that you're not trying to push your own agenda on an unwilling participant. If you don't, they're likely to trample your little pearls of wisdom then turn around and tear you to pieces verbally.