Confrontation is something everyone has to deal with in their daily lives. But is there a biblical way to deal with confrontation? What does the Bible have to say about confrontation? Let’s talk about biblical confrontation and what it means for us.
What is Confrontation?
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The Oxford Dictionary defines confrontation as a hostile or argumentative situation or meeting between opposing parties. In other words, two or more parties face off on opposite sides.
Confrontations are normally loud, uncomfortable, and can be antagonistic. That doesn’t sound like biblical confrontation, does it?
Biblical meaning of confrontation
The Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines biblical confrontation in this manner:
- To stand in opposition; to oppose with firmness.
- To put face to face; to cause to face or to meet; as, to confront one with the proofs of his wrong doing.
- To set in opposition for examination; to put in contrast; to compare
Now, this definition sounds more like it. Biblical confrontation is not about accusations and anger. Rather, it’s about presenting truth with firmness.
Biblical confrontation doesn’t accuse. It presents proof of an individual’s transgression. But since we’re following in Jesus’ footsteps, we must go a step further and confront others with love.
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Why We Fear Confrontation
You may need to spend some time to figure out why you are afraid of confrontation. Some possible reasons are:
- Fear of rejection: when we believe someone is rejecting our ideas (and by extension rejecting us), we may get a bit defensive. This causes us to lash out at the other person. Next thing you know you’re in a fight and you don’t know how it started.
- Fear of losing control: confrontation is sometimes the outward manifestation of a power struggle. We fight because we want to feel in control or because we fear that we are not in control but want to pretend that we are. This article from LovePanky.com gives six reasons why we fear confrontation.
Did you notice the connection? One fear can lead to another fear. It’s almost like we’re creating a fear chain. Initially, we’re afraid of this one thing, and then we become afraid of another thing because of that first thing.
Pretty soon, if we’re not careful, we’re going to be locked up in our houses afraid to go outside or bathe or cook! I know, that’s a bit dramatic, but I want us to realize how destructive even a little fear can be. Our fears can make us confrontational and cause us to abandon godly principles.
Examples of Confrontation in the Bible
During His ministry, Jesus was in conflict with the religious leaders of the time. The scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and chief priests all had established ways of doing things. Many of those things portrayed an erroneous impression of God.
Jesus’s ministry was all about showing people the character and nature of God to get them into right standing with Him.
As we examine Jesus’s conflicts with the leaders of Israel, we realize that He’s never unkind. He repeatedly shows them what they’re doing wrong by comparing their actions to what God requires in the Law they were so fond of quoting. Here are two examples:
1. Doing good on the Sabbath
There are several examples of Jesus healing people on the Sabbath, but let’s look at the account in Luke 13:10-17.
There was a woman in the Temple who had been struggling with a condition for 18 years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself (Luke 13:11 ESV). I can only imagine how uncomfortable and painful that must have been for her.
Yet, when Jesus healed her, the ruler of the synagogue became indignant because Jesus chose to heal her on the Sabbath and not one that the other six days of the week. In his mind, Jesus should have waited until at least the next day before He released the woman from her 18-year bondage.
Let’s zero in on the word indignant for a minute. The word translated as “indignant” is the Greek word aganaktéō, (pronounced ag-an-ak-teh’-o). Aganaktéō means to be greatly afflicted, i.e. (figuratively) to be indignant. It could also mean to be much displeased.
The Oxford Dictionary defines indignant as feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment.
In other words, the leader of the synagogue was angry because he thought Jesus was being unfair to heal the woman on the Sabbath. Jesus was not following the rules.
Christ pointed out the duality in the man’s statement. He had shown more kindness to his animals that morning than he expected to be shown to the woman.
2. Tradition versus Law
In Matthew 15, the scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus to explain why His disciples didn’t follow the traditions of the elders by washing their hands before a meal. The process of traditional hand-washing was intricate and elaborate.
Jesus saw the question as another teaching moment. He countered their question with one of His,
“And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3 NIV
Jesus pointed out that they were so concerned with keeping their traditions, they had failed to keep God’s Law. Specifically, they were not honoring their parents because instead of taking care of them as they got older or became destitute, they claimed that the money they would have used was a gift to God and hence could not be used for their care (Matthew 15:4-6).
This, Jesus explained, made God’s Law null and void and replaced it with a tradition. Jesus used Scripture in an attempt to show the leaders what needed to be done. As the Son of God, He could have been much harsher. But He chose instead to confront their sin by pointing to the Law that they had studied and probably memorized.
What Does the Bible Say About Confrontation?
The best example of how to approach biblical confrontation is found in Matthew 18:15-17. In Jesus’s example, you seek out the person you want to confront privately. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to bring one or two persons with you. If that still doesn’t work, bring it to the church.
The Matthew 18 model of biblical confrontation gives three distinct steps to follow when approaching someone who you’ve observed to be at fault:
- Approach the person privately (Matthew 18:15)
- Take one or two others along (Matthew 18:16)
- Bring it to the church (Matthew 18:17)
If all attempts at conflict resolution and reconciliation fail, then the offending member is to be “treated as a pagan or tax collector” (Matthew 18:17).
In other words, if the person fails to repent from their sin, they should no longer be considered a member of the church. They should not be mistreated or maligned because Jesus’s example of kindness towards everyone is to be our guide.
But how should you approach the person when attempting to follow the steps of biblical confrontation?
How to Confront Someone in a Godly Manner
The Bible offers us solutions for handling conflict. Typically, when we go to speak with someone, it’s because we recognize an issue or see the potential for one. Here are some steps for Christian conflict resolution:
1. Identify your own issues. Sometimes, the things that make us mad at another person are things we also struggle with. Or, it has to do with how we respond to someone else’s words or actions. Recognize that the flaw may be yours. Matthew 7:3-5 says that we must first take the beam out of our own eyes before hoping to take the speck out of our brother’s eye.
Self-inspection is key. Decide if the source of conflict is something that has to do with your attitudes, motivations, or behaviors.
2. Speak to the person. Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People teaches that we must begin with the end in mind. In this situation, visualize how you want the conversation to end before you approach the situation.
Understand that during the conversation you may have to stop a few times to remind yourself of what you want to accomplish. In the heat of the conversation, you may get so upset you completely lose control of the argument (Matthew 18:15).
3. Practice kindness. When someone is at fault, it’s easy to adopt a self-righteous attitude but this attitude does more harm than good. Just put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a second, the last thing you would want to deal with is a superior attitude from someone who’s pointing out a flaw or something you did wrong. Kindness is a key ingredient if you’re going to confront someone in a biblical manner.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1 ESV
4. Invite a third party to go with you. If speaking to the person by yourself doesn’t work, take someone else with you (Matthew 18:16). Sometimes, the presence of an impartial witness allows each person to keep their cool. Our fear of being embarrassed before our peers becomes a motivator for us to keep a cool head.
5. Bring it before the church. This instruction is specific to those who are in the body of Christ (Matthew 18:16). But if you are not both believers, you may need to take the dispute before a board or court of law.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.” Matthew 5:25 NIV
6. Practice forgiveness. Whether the person chose to listen to your rebuke or not, forgive them. If someone sins, even if it’s against us, there’s no limit on the number of times that we should forgive that person. Forgiving the person will make it easier for us to treat them with kindness and love.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV
7. Pray. Though this is listed last it is by no means the least important. As Christians, we are encouraged to pray at all times, in all things, and about everything (Philippians 4:6). Take your fears to God in prayer. Tell Him what you are afraid will happen and what you hope to accomplish.
Pray before you confront the person you have an issue with. Pray while you are speaking to the person. The beauty of prayer is that it brings us into the presence of God and has the power to change our hearts.
God knew that we would have conflicts and confrontations with each other. That’s why He put these principles in the Bible. How do we overcome a fear of confrontation?
By following the biblical method of conflict resolution. We learn to manage our conflicts before they escalate into a confrontation.
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