It’s been a strange week. Quite uncharacteristically, I found myself compelled to (lovingly) confront two different people. Now, if there is ANYONE in the world who doesn’t like confrontation – it’s me. But after months, in one case, and years, in the other of seeing the problem between us only grow, rather than “go away,” or “resolve itself” as I’d hoped and prayed, I was led to the realization that I must speak up. In one case, I had to establish a healthy boundary where encroachment had occurred, and in the other, I needed to speak up for someone too young to speak up for himself. It was painful preparing the right words as tenderly but firmly as I knew how, and worse – imagining how the recipient might feel or respond. I think that is the biggest fear for someone like me – hurting another, appearing ungracious or inflexible somehow.
The Gospel is all about grace, after all. I lean heavily this way, myself – I remember the grace God extended and still extends to me and I remember how much I would want others to forgive or overlook an offense of mine. And I know they do. For months and years, respectively, I did the same in these two relationships. John 13:34-35 tells us that “they will know we are Christians by our love.” We also read that it is wise to “overlook an offense” (Proverbs 13:11.) But contrary to many Christian’s apparent belief or practice, the Bible does not preclude confrontation altogether. That we are to confront injustice is poignantly clear in several passages, but we are also given instructions for personal confrontation in Matthew 18, Galatians 6 and Titus 3, to name a few references.
Speaking up in these two instances was just uncomfortable enough to drive me closer to God in prayer. Now isn’t that how God uses painful circumstances? The closer we draw to him, the better we are able to hear his loving instruction, to learn and grow. Here’s some of what I learned through these confrontations:
- To wait on God’s timing. Since I was prayerfully committing these issues to God from the beginning, I believe he led me to overlook offenses until the timing was right to speak up. Importantly, I was led to forgive each time and not let bitterness grow.
- To consider the breakdown in communication. Once I opened up about my concerns, I opened a window of opportunity for dialogue and mending of the relationship.
- To be humble and prayerful before, during, and after the confrontation.
- To trust God to direct the response and repercussions. I realized I was overly concerned with the approval of others when I was faced with my fear of their reactions.
- To be more aware of the ongoing conflict between my Christian worldview and the “world’s” view.
Challenges to our convictions arise in unexpected ways, times and places. Christians cannot simply go live life quietly in a corner, as we are increasingly encouraged to do by culture these days. Not if we are living a life of integrity. This week, God has been teaching me much and growing my courage in Christ. And now that I’ve weathered a storm, I can see the sun breaking through the clouds! I truly feel relieved.