It’s Going Down!

Confrontation is not something most of us relish. Some of us avoid it like the plague in fact. We’d rather shun someone all the while harbor offense in our heart, or act like nothing happened at all instead of confronting someone and exposing what we feel they did wrong. It really goes back to being so concerned with what people think of us. When should confrontation be a part of our duty as a friend? As a parent or spouse? As a fellow human being? As a Christian?

confrontationPaul confronted one of the pillars of the early church; one might even argue THE pillar, Peter, in Galatians 2:11-21. Let me set the stage. Peter used to eat with Gentiles, even lived as if he too were a Gentile rather than a Jew. When James came to town along with some other men who were Jews, Peter began to distance himself from the Gentiles in a way that was very obvious. He did so because he was afraid of what those men would think of him. This didn’t stop with just Peter’s bigotry; the other Jews there joined him. Paul called this hypocrisy!

When we see error, we are faced with a dilemma. Do we confront, look the other way, or do we join in? Confronting a wrong means exposing yourself to possible harm (emotionally or even physically). What would Paul do? It says Paul “opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” He gives us several reasons, among them were : Peter’s actions were hypocrisy and “they were not in line with the truth of the gospel.” He said this in front of them all. We find some helpful traits of effective confrontation from this story that we should implement as well when we are faced with wrong doing (to us or others):

  • Oppose them to their face. Go to that individual and share with them what they did (or did not do), what they said, or what act they committed. Do not talk about them behind their back to others, even for their own opinion on the matter. Go directly to the source.
  • Make sure they were clearly in the wrong. Paul listed why he knew Peter was wrong. We should establish that before confronting someone. Asking clarifying questions of the individual is the best way of obtaining information, finding their perspective in the issue, and disarming defensiveness.
  • Explain why you feel it is wrong. Paul told Peter not just what he did, but why it was wrong and how it affected others. This caused Peter to grow.
  • Public confrontation when needed. Most of the time we should confront someone privately. However, in this instance Peter was addressed by Paul in public. He did so because multiple people were influenced by Peter. It was a public wrong/sin/offense so it was confronted in a public manner.

We all miss the mark sometimes (the definition of sin, by the way). Correction is vital to all of us. Let us not be afraid to confront wrongs in a loving, Spirit-led way with the goal of reconciliation and being in line with the truth of the gospel! Let us receive correction with humility and an open mind and tender heart before God.