One of our Bible study groups is reading the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. Many scholars call it the charter of Christian Freedom. It is a very exciting study, but at the same time it is very confrontational. The confrontation is especially pointed between the Apostles Paul and Peter. In the middle of the second chapter we read these words, “When Peter came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” (Galatians 2:11)
Paul concluded that in order for Peter and the church of Galatia to understand the freedom that Christ has given and the freedom that some people wanted to take from them, the Galatians had to be confronted. The Galatians started out well – appreciating and enjoying the freedom that was theirs because of Christ Jesus. But then some false apostles came and loaded them with all sorts of requirements that were unnecessary. In the confrontational mode, Paul writes, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? . . . Are you so foolish?” (Galatians 3:1-3)
In the Gospel of Luke, we find these words about the apostles: “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:9-11)
The Gospel of Mark presents Jesus in a confrontational way. “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating: he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” (Mark 16:14)
In my life I have found that I gained very little from confrontational postures. In fact I have come to doubt the statement that one learns more from their critics than from their friends. As I assess the few times in which I have confronted people over personal shortcomings or denominational shortcomings, I found that these approaches have distanced them from me. One case in particular comes to my mind. I confronted a person and several years later, we were seated together. I thought that I was in the ice hotels of Scandinavia!
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A church college student related to me that one of his professors was very kind to people in their city and constantly talked about injustices in the world. Being encouraged by that high sense of justice, the student confronted the professor over an injustice that he perceived was done by the professor. The professor went ballistic. He lectured the student on respect and the fact that even if they are fighting for the same causes, they are not equals.
I know that confrontation works sometimes, since Jesus used it and so did Paul. It seems that while it worked for them, I have found that it does not work for me. In fact I have given up on confrontation and I am trying to finesse the art of persuasion, hoping for better results.