Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dealing with Confrontation

One of the key passages on confrontation in the New Testament is Matthew 18:15-20. And it is often ignored. Now some issues are open and public and should be dealt with in an open and public manner (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). And I am convinced there are times to pass over minor issues (1 Peter 4:8). But if we are to correct people for something other than clear, public actions, we need to follow Matthew 18:15-20. You do not go to the pastor or the pastor's wife or some other individual, or worse yet, gossip it to some uninvolved person first (Proverbs 11:13; 18:8; 26:20); you go to the person. I have been involved in this process from every position, and it is just not possible to get a clear impression of where a person is coming from if you do not talk to them face to face. It is impossible, when dealing through a third party, to ask questions, to get clarifications, to explain your actions, or even to know if the person you offended is satisfied with your apology. Also, you cannot see the person's face or hear the sound of their voice, which is a large part of this type of communication. It is much harder to win your brother, which is the proper goal of such a correction,  if you have already told or involved someone else. That is why this is to be done in secret, to allow for this sort of reconciliation. Further, there is a possibility that you may not be in the right or totally in the right or that there may be some sort of misunderstanding (Proverbs 18:17; 25:8-10; 3:30). And the more people who are involved, the harder it is for either side to back down.

Now someone may say it is hard to confront someone to correct them. It is hard. It is meant to be. We should not decide to correct people lightly. It should not be safe. One may ask if there are extreme cases where some allowance should be made. Maybe, but they should be extreme cases. Every time I have stretched this a little, I have regretted it. But doing it right should be the rule, not the exception.