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October 23, 2019
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Growing Relationships through Confrontation booklet

Mike and Sue Dowgiewicz • Conflict Management
Would you desert your family just because they didn't agree with you on an issue? Would you cut off your hand just because a sprained finger kept you fromplaying golf? These questions may sound foolish to you, but how quickly individualsin the body of Christ cut off communication or take offense when others don't
see things the way they do!



No matter how frustrated you may get from wanting others to understand yourpoint of view, remember: Relationships must take precedence over any issues on which you disagree.

(This entire booklet is available here).

 

CHAPTER 1

Dealing In Love With Potentially Divisive Issues

 

Would you desert your family just because they didn't agree with you on an issue? Would you cut off your hand just because a sprained finger kept you from playing golf? These questions may sound foolish to you, but how quickly individuals in the body of Christ cut off communication or take offense when others don't see things the way they do!

No matter how frustrated you may get from wanting others to understand your point of view, remember: Relationships must take precedence over any issues on which you disagree. We experienced this concept firsthand in Israel, where we lived with close friends for several months. One afternoon Mike noticed two men in our neighborhood involved in an animated, heated discussion. Our host Bert, a Jewish believer, asked Mike if he thought the relationship of those men would be jeopardized by such a strong disagreement.

 

Recalling personal past experiences, Mike answered, "Of course!" Bert replied,

"That's the way it is with Gentiles. Your disagreements tend to alienate you. You

become estranged from each other. This isn't so with Jewish people. Our relationships

are more important to us than the issues we disagree about." Mike was deeply

convicted by Bert's observation, an insight that compelled us to take a closer look at

the Bible's view of relationship.

 

This booklet develops a biblical basis for supporting those we care about while

at the same time confronting the issues that are detrimental to the relationship.

Those who have read our book Demolishing Strongholds understand that the main

assignment of demonic activity is to cause division-separation between you

and God and between you and others in your life. These spirits attack every

level of relationship: husbands and wives, children and parents, children with

each other, neighbors, co-workers, fellow worshipers.

 

Demonic servants of Satan locate and exploit footholds of rejection, bitterness,

fear, and insecurity in churches, families, or individuals. No wonder we are warned

by Peter: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring

lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you

know that your brothers [family in Jesus!] throughout the world are undergoing the same

kind of sufferings" (1 Peter 5:8,9).

 

One of the devil's schemes that Paul warned believers about in Ephesians 6:11 is

what we call the "sweaty-body scenario." For thirty years Mike played a lot of pickup

basketball. He normally perspires a lot during activity. During the past few years

he noticed an interesting trend regarding attitudes toward the normal bodily function

of perspiration: Many young men hate to get sweat on themselves. They avoid

body contact as much as possible. Realizing this, Mike would purposely come up

and slide against them. Sure enough, they would back off and fail to guard him. He

was free to make any shots he wanted!

 

 

In the relational realm, Satan uses the "sweaty body scenario" by creating an

aversion in one person toward another. Normally he incites some behavioral or personality habit in a brother or sister that keeps you from drawing near that individual.

That one irritating flaw then colors all other thoughts or actions you have

toward that person, creating an avoidance pattern in you. Satan does this to keep

God's children from obeying the "one-anothering" commands that permeate the

New Testament.

 

During our ten years of teaching ministry at a retreat center from 1983 to 1993,

we observed an ever-increasing rise of intolerance over interpersonal differences.

This unwillingness to bend affects marriages, families, and friendships. A Greek

philosophical influence has threaded through much of Christian thinking today.

This competitive, "I'll prove to you I'm right" attitude causes people to become

polarized in their positions and opinions. They become personally offended when

anyone differs with them. All too often their affections for each other diminish and

even turn to animosity.

 

Think of how many times the apostle Paul calls members of the body "brother"

and "sister." Even Jesus defined mother, brother, and sister as those who did the

will of His Father in heaven (see Matthew 12:50). The Hebraic understanding of

"family" (mishpachah in Hebrew) encompassed far more than the immediate

blood relatives. Included were the entire extended family of Jewish people the

world wide. In the same way, as followers of Jesus our concept of family must

stretch beyond the comfort zone of those with whom we choose to intermingle.

If we are truly co-heirs with Christ in His Kingdom, then we are "relatives" in that

family by His blood!

 

Let's bring the analogy even closer to home: your own human body. Paul

addresses a great number of verses to the Body of believers in Corinth to convince

them of the necessity for connection-for that unity of well-being that comes when

every part is functioning as it ought to.

 

We may not be pleased with all the individuals that make up our particular

faith communities, be it a home fellowship or congregation, but from God's viewpoint,

He "has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the

parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts

should have equal concern for each other" (1 Corinthians 12:24,25, emphasis added).

We are never all going to agree on everything all the time, even by the grace of

God. We therefore need to learn how to biblically resolve those areas of personal differences that must find resolution, and to wait on God to solve those that we can't.

But never should we cling to anger or bitterness. Those divide our unity in Jesus and

sever our relationships so that we cannot function in a Body that is truly seeking to

love and obey God.

 

Remember, Satan has declared war on the saints (see Revelation 12:17). To yield

to his devices of deception, lies, and hatred is to corrode the love that is able to bind

us together. If he can stir up tension and apprehension over the differences we

encounter, he has succeeded in establishing footholds that will ultimately bring

estrangement into our relationships in Christ.

 

 

Differences exist because we are different. Even our gender differences were created

by God to teach us to see our need for the other side's perspective. Personality

differences indicated by any number of tests confirm that we are not all clones of

each other. And distinctions in spiritual gifting cause us to see things differently.

Just put four individuals gifted respectively with prophecy, exhortation, mercy,

and administration in the same room to witness the same event, then ask them

what they observed. You probably won't get the same response! Yet each will offer

input that contributes to the picture as a whole.

 

As you go through this workbook, remind yourself that immediate agreement

on issues of difference may not be God's plan. Paul, writing from the perspective

of a Jewish follower of Christ, concurs. God's ultimate sovereignty is a great comfort

for those who trustingly wait on His intervention: "All of us who are mature

should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too

God will make clear to you" (Philippians 3:15, emphasis added). God's sovereign

purposes will be accomplished. Let's trust Him to reveal the truth and hold onto

our brotherhood in Jesus.

 

God expects that we will differ in our opinions in marriage and in other close relationships.Some of these differences may involve emotional convictions that are held

very tightly. Whatever people value dearly they cling to with strong emotional attachment.When it comes to matters of faith and obedience to God, this passion can be even greater.

 

For example, for some people, keeping their home free from potential visual

and audio temptation is a key value. That may motivate them to toss their TV

and carefully monitor all CD's, tapes, and magazines that come in. For others,

perfecting their personal skill in a sport or activity takes high priority. Perhaps

their self-esteem is derived from that. For still others, changing their society

through intense political activism is paramount. Each person's values are different,

yet none is intrinsically wrong. Just be sure that you are able to define

for others what is important to you, and that you are willing to listen when others

reveal their values to you.


Reflections

1. List 4 things that you value the most (peaceful home, health, security, intimate

companionship, whatever). Using a scale of 0 to 100, indicate how important each

value is to you.

1.

2.

3.

4.

 

 

2. Which of your values do you find is most often overlooked, stepped on, or criticized

by others?

 

3. Which items, if any, on your list would you be willing to die for? Who or what

influenced you to feel so strongly about these values?

 

4. How do you most often react to those whose values or beliefs conflict with yours?

Describe a situation in which this conflict of values occurred.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

Admonishing One Another In Christ

 

Differences bring discomfort and sometimes emotional pain. We want to escape

from our distress and blanket over the differences just so we don't have to risk confrontation.

 

But through our Father's grace and the teachings in His Word, God expects His

people to work through the areas in which we differ with others. Learning to deal

in love with our differences epitomizes a virtue of Jesus that we must practice

repeatedly if it is to become part of our transformed nature.

 

Regrettably, many of the Sunday school and Bible study curricula used in congregations

are designed specifically to convey content but minimize the chance that

differences may surface and confrontation ensue over these differences.

Overemphasis on content conveyance reduces opportunity for personal confronta-

tion and actually breeds the growing intolerance seen throughout the church in the

U.S. God's children need to face their differences and grow through them, not avoid

them.

 

Any viable relationship that continues to grow in ever-increasing

Christlikeness will require biblical confrontation and/or admonishment for it to

flourish. Confrontation involves coming to grips with differences, none of which

may be inherently wrong. Admonishment, however, involves confronting

another person with words designed to alter attitude, behavior, or direction.

Consider the synonyms for "admonish" that occur repeatedly in scripture:

reprove, exhort, correct, counsel, rebuke, warn, advise. You may have been

abused in the past by someone who misapplied admonishment or mistreated you

unlovingly in the name of "biblical rebuke." A close examination of Colossians

3:12-17, however, reveals the biblical prerequisites for administering biblical

admonishment.

 

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with

compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (v. 12). Because you have

been chosen by God and filled with confidence in His love, you are completely able

by His grace to put on the virtuous "garments" listed above. Yet none of these character

traits grows in a vacuum. For instance, in order to experience compassion,

someone else needs to be hurting. To demonstrate humility, you need to be in a

position where self-exaltation is also a tempting option. And certainly patience

grows only with the fertilization of potential irritation or frustration brought on by

someone else!

 

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one

another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (v. 13). It is the potentially divisive issue or situation that brings you to the point of choosing to bear with another person's differences. After all, an unChristlike response would be to flee the whole mess, severing

the relationship and refusing to face it with forgiveness.

 

The forgiveness with which the Lord has forgiven you goes far beyond agreement

that wrong has been committed. His intercession continues, and He never

again reminds you of past sins that He has remitted. No grievance can be too large

for you to excuse and hold onto your bitterness or unforgiveness toward another

individual, especially if you want to be available to be used according to God's purposes.

"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called

to peace" (vv. 14, 15). Unity in the Body is the goal of our Father (see John

17:21,22). This takes a tremendous amount of love in "one-anothering"-personal,

trusting obedience to the biblical, interactive commands for the Body.

Correct behaviors alone will produce prideful, isolated churchgoers. Only those

yielded to the supernatural inner working of the Holy Spirit will have a loving

heart ruled by peace that can righteously admonish, exhort, instruct, encourage,

and correct others in the household of faith.

 

"And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God" (vv. 15,16). Note that thankfulness is a state of being, an overflow of continual awareness of God's mercy and kindness to you. With that attitude in place, you are then in a position to apply His Word to your own inner being. From that well of wisdom you can instruct and admonish others with the goal of raising them up in

Christlikeness. Admonishment that is done from the flesh, from wanting your own way

to prevail, is far different from the God-directed and -empowered correction that promotes

spiritual growth and fruit.

 

The apostle Paul was able to exhort and admonish and warn the Corinthian

believers because he had practiced the virtues listed above. He recognized himself as

their spiritual father (see 1 Corinthians 4:15). As such, he felt deeply the relational

responsibility to direct them away from ungodliness and toward that which pleases

God. Thus he could urge them to imitate his way of life, which encompassed far

more than his actions.

 

Paul exhibited the inner working of the Holy Spirit so that these new believers

also could experience the Spirit-led life as they obeyed His prompting. Paul's

admonishment redirected them toward a loving obedience to the Father that

would bring glory to His Name.

 

Reflections

1. Name three people in your family or faith community who are willing to correct,

rebuke, or admonish you when necessary.

 

1.

 

2.

 

3.

 

 

2. When was the last time any of them did so? What was the issue he or she

addressed? How did you feel when that person approached you about that issue?

 

3. Do you think it was difficult for that person to work up courage to come and

speak to you? Ask how he or she felt. Do the responses agree?

 

4. When was the last time you confronted someone? What was the issue?

 

5. If you were to exhort or correct another person again, what heart preparations

(according to Col. 3:12-17) would you need to adjust before carrying out your

assignment?

 

CHAPTER 3

Harmony In The Body

 

"I don't want to get involved!" "I have enough problems of my own!" Sound

familiar? These are really just excuses for avoiding relational intimacy.

Your noninvolvement produces a void just your size in the church Body. A nonfunctioning foot will not carry you anywhere. A weak, barely operative heart will

immobilize you completely. Spiritual edification on an individual or corporate level

comes only as each one does his part in harmony with the others.

 

What does harmony look like? In the context of Romans 12, harmony emerges

from the interconnected belonging of each part with the other. Paul calls for "sober

self-appraisal" that produces a certain degree of humility as you see how incomplete

you are in isolation from the rest of the Body. The gifting apportioned to you by the

Holy Spirit is uniquely designed by Him to fit into a Body for specific purposes that

will bring spiritual growth and depth to each member.

 

For instance, perhaps there is a great need in your congregation for home visits

to shut-ins, but your gift of mercy is being quenched by your frivolous misuse of

time. Not only are you feeling that gnawing uneasiness from the Spirit, but the

Body at large is missing out on the blessing you could be to those in need. That's

the time to draw near to God in repentant submission and yield to His intents and

purposes for your time. Your inner peace will grow and there will be harmony in the

Body as far as it depends on you.

 

(See God's Instruments for War: Discovering and

Coordinating Spiritual Gifts as Weapons of Warfare by Mike and Sue Dowgiewicz for

more on the interconnection of spiritual gifts.)

 

Both Paul and Peter twice refer to "brotherly love." This relational intimacy is

load-bearing, that is, loves enough to shoulder the burdens and share the pain as a

part of the family of Jesus. Just as brothers and sisters in a biological family cause

pain as well as bear it, so, too, families in Christ must be willing to risk painful intrusion

or angry responses as they help their brother or sister get back on spiritual track

with a godly word of rebuke or instruction.

 

Part of that relational responsibility entails coming alongside to offer accountability

and to help guide one another onto the right path. You wouldn't spank your

child and not follow-up with a word of love and direction as to the right course she

should follow. So, too, a wayward family member in the Lord needs more than a

rebuke. He or she also needs assurance that you care enough to help find the right

course of action or attitude and then bring encouragement as steps are taken in that

direction.

 

Apply the truth of Proverbs 27:6 to your own life: "The kisses of an enemy may be

profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend." Those who love you and have a vested

interest in your spiritual growth are willing to sacrifice their time and efforts

to help you restore intimacy in your walk with God and fellowship with others.

People with whom your relationship is only superficial will smile and ignore the

pain in your eyes. They are not willing to "shoulder the load" with you. We are

called to be faithful as He is faithful. Are you willing to allow the Lord to intrude

into your life with one of His needy children?

 

Relational responsibility offers you a whole realm of opportunity to put others before

yourself in a righteous manner. If you are not finding joy or peace as you extend yourself

to others, ask yourself if your motive is misguided. Are you trying to "prove" that

you're following Christ? Are you deriving some sort of perverse "martyr" satisfaction

over being there for everybody and then grumbling about it? True load-bearing empowered by the Holy Spirit brings discernment of when to say no, as well as the means to obey that to which He is calling you.

 

It's easy enough to experience personal peace when you're all alone and no one

is making demands on you. But so much of the biblical text calls for you to merge

your life with the lives of others both in the faith and outside it. That is where

your willingness to live in harmony gets tested. Paul admonished the Roman

believers to live at peace as much as it depends on them (Romans 12:18). Even

when by His grace you extend peace to others, there is no guarantee that they

will return it. But your faithful obedience releases God to work in the heart of

the ones to whom you've reached out.

 

Reflections

1. What percentage of your free or discretionary time is spent blessing others, be it by

telephone, prayer, or other interaction? If Jesus were in your shoes, would that amount

be the same? How would it differ?

 

2. Describe your response when you encounter a brother or sister in need. What

form of involvement do you generally contribute?

 

3. Name three people in your faith community whom you really see as intimate spiritual

brothers or sisters. In what ways does your relationship with them differ from

that with others in your faith community?

 

4. Describe an instance when you experienced the "faithful wounds of a friend." How

did you feel at the time? Could you sense the love behind the words or did you feel

like he or she was dropping a bomb on you? How was your friend able to help you

along a new direction?

 

5. Since you are commanded to live in harmony with others, what changes is the

Holy Spirit prompting you to make that will add to your own spiritual peace as well

as the peace of your family in Jesus?

 

 

CHAPTER 4

Focusing On The Issues

 

The key to biblical confrontation:

Focus on the issue, don't attack the person.

 

Followers of Jesus will not always agree on everything. Some issues will be major,

others relatively minor. Few true disciples are willing to split over a difference in the

carpet color of the sanctuary. Most differences or issues can be resolved if the conflict

is viewed as a point of difference between the parties, i.e., "We have a problem"

rather than "You have a problem."

 

The biblically Hebraic viewpoint of dealing with differences is like putting your

two index fingers together and recognizing that we together have a situation that

needs resolution.

 

 

The Gentile approach we inherited from the Greek

philosophers tends to find fault or blame from an

adversarial approach. That process looks like one index

finger pointing at the other and saying that the problem

comes from your faulty way of thinking. We in

Christ are members of the same Body; as parts of the

whole, each one is part of the communal "we." Thus we

are obligated to either find resolution or to wait on God

to make it plain.

 

Because of the Hebraic self-awareness of the early Church, this was a very natural

concept to grasp. The earliest believers were Jewish. They fully understood a communal

belonging to all other Jews worldwide. Their sense of "we" in both the Messianic

and non-Messianic communities was intensely strong. Our current church culture has

become more pluralistic and divided in its thinking. We find it difficult to see ourselves

as one Christian family. We need intentional, interpersonal training in order to

apply the true, biblical confrontation that brings unity of spirit.

 

One of the most loving interpersonal skills you can develop is the ability to support someone even while you confront or admonish him. Confrontation can take many forms. Sometimes it is just trying to clarify where you and I disagree on a matter. Sometimes it is more intense, compelling you to come to me to discuss a matter of sin that I am clinging to.

 

What do you normally do when you hear something that differs with your view

or opinion? Your reaction may be something like, "If I listen to you and try to understand

what you're telling me, you may misinterpret my listening as agreement with you."

So to defend yourself, you might interrupt with words like "No" or "You're wrong"

or "I disagree." Worse, you may stop listening and begin to prepare your own position

or rebuttal, and never fully hear what the other person is really saying.

 

Think of how often the phrase "He who has an ear, let him hear" appears in the

Bible. True hearing entails more than the passage of sounds through your ears. Your

brain interprets those sounds into words, and then instills emotional response into

their meaning. At any point you can choose to "shut off" communication by not

processing those words or by refusing to allow them to penetrate your understanding.

You owe it to others to allow the impact of what they're presenting to you to

evoke a response that shows he or she is worthy of consideration. If time is crucially

short, you can gently but firmly present alternatives, such as, "Can we discuss

this more tomorrow afternoon when we won't be rushed?" But shutting them off

even while standing in their presence violates the command, "In humility consider

others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).

 

You can support the person you are confronting without having to agree with

him or her. Support accepts the validity of whatever he or she says, thinks, or feels,

irrespective of your agreement with it. Your support allows him to be heard and

understood even if you differ with his position or ideas. You are giving him the right

to his feelings and perceptions as personal realities. When you consciously listen, that

support enhances his dignity. After all, that individual is made in God's image and

loved by Him. Just because your views and beliefs don't match in no way subtracts

from his innate value.

 

It is crucial that you clarify the areas in which you do agree if your relationship is

to take on deeper dimensions. If you have a relationship that revolves exclusively

around tennis, little meeting of the hearts will occur. However, if you belong to a

home fellowship, the accountability in your walk together with the Lord will be

multi-faceted. There will be multiple areas of agreement, and even some areas of disagreement.

 

If your relationships are accountable you will encounter situations in which a

timely rebuke or admonishment is needed. How you handle your differences in these

close relationships will be key to deepening true fellowship. The differences you face

provide opportunities for you both to exercise submission to one another and to

demonstrate patience and forbearance.

 

The value that you and others bring to a relationship is your wonderful uniqueness

in being made in God's image. The skill of biblical support is the ability to

demonstrate acceptance of one another no matter what he or she thinks, says, or

feels. This is their reality as much as your thoughts and values are reality for you.

Skillful support recognizes where you differ with each other, and realizes that

you have a right to your differences. To react in any other way is to literally sit in

judgment of the person...a position reserved only for God Himself: "Why do you look

at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3).

 

The deeper a relationship, such as marriage, parenting, or load-bearing, the more

critical it is that supportive confrontation and admonition occur. Workable solutions

must be identified and carried through in order for the relationship to continue

with health and vitality and trust.

 

A warning is in order here: If you silently go along with everything someone

else says even if you don't agree, you will face the danger of emotionally detaching

yourself from that person. Your relationship will become strained, and you will avoid

contact because you will feel that your beliefs or ideas have no value. A loving relationship in Christ necessitates confronting or admonishing the other person when

differences arise. Confrontation allows you the freedom to present your side, and an

opportunity to come before God together in prayer to search the scriptures to discern

resolution of the situation.

 

Supportive listening and interaction show that you recognize the other person's

position to be legitimate for him or her. It meets one of the deepest human needs

- the need to be heard. We all need to be loved, understood, and accepted. These

needs can be met when someone takes the time to listen and accept us even if they

don't agree with our ideas or beliefs.

 

 

Reflections

1. One key element of supporting another person is to listen. Ask five people with

whom you have a close relationship to evaluate you as a listener. Be sure to ask them

to evaluate your facial expressions and body language for attentiveness. Record the

essence of their comments:

 

1.

 

 

2.

 

 

3.

 

 

2. Recall a situation in which you seriously disagreed with your spouse, child, or

close friend on an issue that was important to you. Replay the conversation as you

remember it. Would you have described yourself as supportive of the other person?

If so, how did you indicate that? What changes, if any, in your approach do you

think God would have you make in any future confrontations?

 

3. Think about this verse as it applies to you: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). When you sharpen iron, flakes of rust and dullness are scraped away. If you are the "dull, rusting iron," this can be a painful process. Recall

an incident in which you knew that God was using you to sharpen someone else in

admonition, or when He was using another person to remove "corrosion" from you.

What benefits came out of that situation?

 

 

CHAPTER 5

Successful Biblical Confrontation

 

Differences that interfere with the quality or purpose of your relationship need

to be addressed in order for fruit to be produced. We've already discussed the need

for admonishment in the Body of Christ as part of relational responsibility. But

sometimes we differ in areas that don't involve sinful attitudes or behaviors. We can

agree to disagree, or we can confront the difference in a biblical manner.

 

"Confrontation" seems to contain a flavor of something distasteful. Yet in the

biblical sense, it means to stand fast or to stand firm for a cause. Most of us feel that

the whole notion of confrontation is something we'd rather avoid than deal with.

Avoidance may provide immediate comfort but will eventually disrupt harmony

and vitality in the Body.

 

Confrontation is not synonymous with conflict. Biblical confrontation enables

a detrimental situation to be changed for the better. It contains a gamut of

approaches from discussion to correction or admonition. The goal and process

involved in confrontation is redemptive. In other words, you confront another person

so that harmony between you can once again be restored.

 

Conflict is related to discord and hostility. Conflict entails a "win-lose" element

in which one person must be the victor while the other goes down in defeat.

Although confrontation and conflict may create similar emotions, the goals of each

have nothing in common.

 

Biblical confrontation is not proving one person right

and the other one wrong.

 

In Acts 15:36-41, Paul and Barnabas disagreed over whether to take Mark with

them on their next missionary trip. Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and Paul

perhaps distrusted the staying power of the young man. We are told, "They had such

a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for

Cyprus."

 

Even though a "sharp disagreement" occurred between them and they no longer

ministered together (as far as we can tell from Scripture), we can infer that the loving

respect Paul and Barnabas had for each other was not severed. After all, it had been

Barnabas who went to receive Paul after his conversion when everyone else was

still fearful of him: "When [Paul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but

they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took

him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the

Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus" (Acts 9:26,27). They had been through a lot together for

the sake of the gospel.

 

The church at Antioch was aware of the long-standing relationship of these two

powerhouses for Jesus. Paul and Barnabas had ministered together in Antioch for an

extended period of time before the disagreement erupted. Rather than make a judgment

call that would deem one right and the other wrong, the brothers put the matter

into the hands of the Lord. Barnabas and Mark sailed off in one direction, where

presumably the younger man continued his training under his godly mentor. "But

Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord" (15:40).

Because they refused to be estranged because of their differences, we see

Barnabas's protégé Mark joining Paul later in his life: "My fellow prisoner Aristarchus

sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)" (Colossians 4:10); "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry"(2 Timothy 4:11). Paul includes Mark in his greetings to Philemon, "And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers" (Philemon 1:24). Doubtless, if

Barnabas had held onto a grudge against Paul, his young cousin would not have

risked his life to help the old apostle later on.

 

Paul again faced confrontation with a fellow apostle, this time Peter. "When Peter

came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was in the wrong" (Galatians

2:11). This was not easy for Paul, for he wrote, "I came to you in weakness and fear,

and with much trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3).

 

Throughout the scriptures the ability to both support and confront is seen as the

pattern of God's people with each other: "If your brother sins go and show him his

fault" (Matthew 18:15). Herein lies a major weakness in church relationships today.

By not supporting one another even in confrontation, we knock the blossom off

relationships that were meant to bear fruit to glorify the Father. Stable fellowship

and relational responsibility that represents "family" loyalty and love requires

belonging to and becoming part of each other-warts and all. Confrontation is

analogous to house cleaning: It removes the dirt and clutter and improves the living conditions for all who abide there. Remember that your support involves you giving the one you are confronting the right to his own stance. Think of the emphasis our Lord placed on treating others as you want to be treated: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). Support brings encouragement to the other person, while confrontation allows you to express a stance or position that differs. Interpersonal tensions are normally founded on one or more of four areas of difference:

 

. goals The purpose of the relationship; answers the question of "where" the

relationship is going.

 

. methods The manner and practice by which aspects of the relationship are carried

out; answers the question of "how" the relationship should function.

 

. values The significant elements esteemed by the partners in the relationship;

answers the question of "why" you think and/or act as you do.

 

. facts Circumstances of certainty which can be proven by investigation;

answers the question of "what" is facing the relationship.

 

In any interpersonal difference, you should always take the time to confirm the

area(s) of your disagreement or misunderstanding. If you can identify the differences

you have and the basis for them, a resolution is then at least possible.

 

Identifying the area(s) of difference is like getting all the cards dealt before you

begin the game. Too often people attempt resolutions but skip the step of identifying

differences. They then fail to grasp what they are trying to resolve, which results

in the same difference(s) arising again later.

 

For instance, your two children are squabbling over which TV show to watch. If

you walk over and turn off the TV and leave it at that, you have done nothing to

prevent the situation from happening again. But if you allow each child to present

his view without accusations toward his sibling, you can then mediate a system of

TV viewing that will be agreeable to both. Perhaps they might come up with the

idea of a chart to sign up for certain shows, or a check mark sheet of who had the

last turn. You'll be providing them an opportunity to learn to negotiate as well!

Often as you work on identifying differences, other information surfaces that

can help you reach resolution. Be sure to clearly identify the differences in the position(

s) that each of you is taking so that you will focus on the issue and not on each

other's perceived character deficiencies. Avoid words like "You always..." or "You

never..." Your goal is to resolve the issue, not raise accusations that lead to a wounded

relationship.

 

Take responsibility for your own feelings.

 

If the issue you are confronting involves a lot of emotional fervor, be alert to one

another's feelings. You are responsible for the feelings that are aroused in you. No

one else causes them. You can be angry at other people for their behavior, but it's

unrealistic to blame them for what's going on inside you. You are the one who creates

hostile, angry feelings inside yourself; the other person merely supplies the

behavior that triggers that response in you.

 

The response of blaming others is an attempt to evade personal responsibility.

Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and they were still thrown out of the garden

of Eden. The current social trend assumes a victimization posture: If you delve far

enough into the past, you can discover who is at fault for your present misery.

Looking for someone to blame can keep you imprisoned in self-pity and confusion.

Like Paul, however, followers of Christ would do well to forget what is behind and press

on to win the glorious eternal prize (see Philippians 3:13,14). Take full responsibility for

yourself, including your feelings. You can then hear more clearly and open-mindedly

what the other person is sharing.

 

Don't feel threatened by convictions that are expressed with intensity. The stoic

approach our society has inherited from the Greek philosophers frowns on any display

of strong emotion. Emotional expression is biblical as long as it is not aimed at

anyone. Many men, in particular, are caught in this stoic trap. They hold in their

emotions for so long that when they finally do release them, destructive verbal or

physical abuse results. We must firmly grasp our biblically Hebraic roots:

 

Relationships are more important than issues. True faith trusts that in all differences,

"God will make it plain."

 

Confrontation is risky because being different is risky.

Your feelings may get hurt when you confront someone. As both of you work to

solve the problem, you might receive some new information or insight and discover

that you have to change your position. If you do not confront a brother or sister about

a difference, you are denying both that person and yourself the value that you bring

into the relationship. A solution that is presented may be in error because your particular

insight was not included.

 

Perhaps you hold a key perception that could alter the course of someone's spiritual

journey. If you listen to the demonic lies that you have little worth and that the

differing belief or idea that you can offer has little value, then you become an impotent

Body part. That which the Spirit was nudging you to share will be squelched, and

the Body will suffer because of it.

 

There is also a risk if you don't confront someone with whom you differ or see headed

down a sinful path. That person may recognize your reluctance or timidity and hold you

in low regard or even disdain. Your value in relationship to that person as a true brother

or sister will be lessened. Procrastination only increases your inner tension, and perhaps

heightens any barriers of resistance in the person you need to confront. There are certain

risks in confrontation, but even greater risks in non-confrontation. The real issue is not

"whether or not to confront my brother or sister," but "how and when to confront with

loving effectiveness."

 

Reflections

1. List several verses that deal with confrontation and/or admonishment. How

would you distinguish between rebuke, correction, warning, admonishing, confronting,

reproof, exhortation, and counsel?

 

2. Have you ever been in a situation in which, like Paul and Barnabas, a third party

disrupted your relationship for a while? How did reconciliation between you come

about?

 

3. Think of three people with whom you are not in agreement about everything. Do

you differ over goals, facts, values, or methods? Which of these four areas seem most

serious to you? Why?

 

4. What issue really arouses emotion in you? How have you responded in the past

to someone who not only disagrees with you but whose position seems unbiblical

to you as well? What did you do?

 

5. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you gauge your level of emotion when you are

confronting differences over issues? Did you grow up in a home where feelings were

expressed and considered? Are there any areas of your emotions that you think God

wants to change in you?

 

 

CHAPTER 6

The Consequences of Non-Confrontation

 

In close interpersonal relationships you may try to avoid confrontation because

you just don't want to face any accompanying emotional tensions. What may

result, however, is a "co-dependent relationship." In a co-dependent relationship,

one person dominates everyone else while one or more others, because they want

security or at least peace, refuse to voice their differences.

 

Jerry Harvey, a business management specialist, illustrates the consequences of

non-confrontation in his book The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on

Management. One particularly sweltering afternoon in West Texas, Harvey, his wife,

and her parents were sitting on the shady veranda playing dominoes. Suddenly his

father-in-law piped up, "Let's get in the car and go to Abilene and have dinner at the

cafeteria." Abilene was fifty miles away, and their old car had no air-conditioning.

As Harvey inwardly groaned, his wife enthusiastically agreed. He asked his mother-

in-law, who also agreed. So off to Abilene they went. The food was lousy and the

drive brutal. When they finally returned, his mother-in-law complained, "I wouldn't

have gone if you all hadn't pressured me into it."

 

Aghast, Harvey exclaimed that he'd been content to stay on the porch. His wife

admitted she had gone only because she wanted to please her father. The father-inlaw

confessed that he had suggested the trip only because he thought they might

be bored. Four people ended up doing something none of them really wanted to do

because no one wanted to speak up.

 

You can't always categorize by personality type the dominant individual you are

fearful to confront. Sometimes the fears are irrational perceptions that have no basis

in reality. This was probably the case in the Abilene paradox. In other instances, it

is the person whom others have to tiptoe around to avoid withdrawal or tears who

is really the "one in charge." Those behaviors are actually controlling the response of

others, but no one wants to confront the manipulation.

 

People who have an underlying apprehension or fear when they know they

have to interact with a dominant person are the co-dependents. They don't want

anything said or done that may set off the dominant individual. They convince the

others involved to stifle their input too. These "significant others" who could help

the Body function in a productive, godly way thus fail to step in and speak up.

The co-dependent person is so desperate to avoid confrontation with the dominant

individual that he or she actively discourages admonishment. The longer that

discomfort and avoidance are practiced, the more deeply entrenched fear and nonconfrontation become. In families and close faith community relationships, two

possible responses are likely:

 

. Others will be entrapped in the co-dependent relationship,

or

. They will be forced to flee the relationship in order to maintain their own identity,

respect, and values.

 

Co-dependent relationships look like gears meshed together.

The motion of the gears is driven by the dominant person's unconfronted

behavior, ideas, or opinions. If you are the co-dependent person, you fear the emotional

tension brought about by confrontation. You may then offer excuses and even

defend the dominant person's behavior.

 

Affected by your fear and denial are the significant

others, children or spiritual family who are

in close relationship with you. They may want to

confront or admonish the one who is controlling

everyone else, but they are also fearful of the

emotions the confrontation may generate.

And if they care deeply about you, they may

excuse your defensive actions as a co-dependent

person.

 

We faced such a situation at one of our

Restoring the Early Church workshops. The participants

were seated at tables in "family groupings" of those with whom they already had a relationship or shared something in common.

 

One older group didn't seem to be making much progress on their group discussion

assignment. As Mike talked with them, they revealed that one of their group

who had just left for the afternoon had held them all in bondage for years. His overbearing attitude and arrogance had prevented them from addressing the discomfort

they felt when he abused them. They had all murmured about the situation but had

never gone to the man with the bold love that confrontation requires.

When Mike finally was able to break through their co-dependency with the

truth of their disobedience to God and their own unloving cowardice, they

repented. After they prayed, two of them purposed before God to hold one another

accountable to go to this individual with confession of their own sin and with

admonishment and exhortation for him.

 

In this not uncommon situation, you can't confront only the dominant

person and expect that everyone else will breathe a sigh of relief and things

will be wonderful. You must also help the co-dependent person and the significant

others because their attitudes and behavior have been altered by their

response to the dominant person. They, too, need to repent for their failure to

lovingly admonish those who have crippled the purpose of the Body.

 

In order to stop the gears from turning, everyone involved must confront

the reality of the situation, confess their part in it, repent before God, and look for God's ways to relate righteously to each other.

 

Reflections

1. Describe any situations you have encountered in which another person controlled

everyone else by his or her attitude or behavior. Did anyone lovingly confront

this person? Did you? If not, why not?

 

2. How would you handle a situation in which a close friend was pursuing a decision

that you sensed from the Lord would hurt his Christian walk? What if someone

warned you in advance that this brother might not respond well to your intervention?

 

3. What scriptures would you use to encourage others in your faith community who

are reluctant to confront a dominant individual? Describe a situation in which you

have observed someone skillfully exhort others using scripture effectively.

 

4. How could brothers and sisters in the faith encourage one another to "maintain

clean slates" in their relationships? How can you avoid becoming nit-picking

watchdogs around one another, and distinguish the issues or situations that really

need to be addressed?

 

 

CHAPTER 7

A Word of Encouragement

When I support the person whom I am confronting

or admonishing, I am recognizing his or her reality.

Confrontation legitimizes my position or ideas.

 

Together WE make explicit our differences

and the resolutions that God intends. Marriages and close relationships in faith communities involve relational responsibilities that lead to accomplishing mutual goals. Because we will not always agree nor will each one always be walking in loving obedience to God, the skills of supportive confrontation are critical. It is not enough for us to confront differences that hinder our relationship and just leave it at that. We need to resolve these in some way or we will give Satan an opportunity to destroy the love that we share.

 

If we are unable to reach resolution among ourselves, we need to submit to an

outside, mature individual for mediation. Paul tells us, "Therefore, if you have disputes

about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!" (1

Corinthians 6:4). The apostle is certainly hoping that such a need is unnecessary.

However, unresolved conflict that is truly hindering brotherhood must be confronted.

Godly outside intervention should not be perceived as failure in the relationship,

but as the biblical extension of the Body helping in time of need - load-bearing.

Remember, the purpose of developing communication skills is to nurture relationships

in which each one feels loved, understood, and accepted. Without loving,

biblical admonishment given by those who are walking intimately with the Father,

depth of maturity and sincere "one anothering" that attracts unbelievers will never

advance. With supportive confrontation, relationships will be nurtured, differences

will be explored, conflicts will be resolved. Then growth can occur.

 

CONFRONT

. Confronting encourages you (and that's good!).

 

What to confront:

. Problems that are not being solved.

. Differences that hamper the relationship.

. Sins, attitudes, behaviors that are detrimental.

 

How to confront:

. Treat issue as a situation you both need to solve.

. Acknowledge the other person's position.

. State your differences clearly and succinctly.

. Check to see if you are being understood.

. Be responsible for your own feelings.

. Fully explore the differences.

 

Don'ts:

. Don't attack his or her character or imply motives.

. Don't railroad your own solution, even if you are in a

position to do that.

. Don't problem-solve until you have both discussed the

issues to one another's satisfaction.

 

SUPPORT

. Support encourages the other person.

 

What to support

. The other person's anxiety, fear, doubt.

. The right for him or her to feel or think differently.

. The reality of his or her perceptions.

 

How to support

. Pray together for wisdom and truth.

. Let the other person speak his or her case.

. Listen! Listen! Listen!

. Restate back what he or she is saying.

. Verbalize his or her feelings.

. Ask for his or her preferred solution.

 

Don'ts:

. Don't rush in too quickly with solutions.

. Don't tell him how he shouldn't feel.

. Don't cut him or her off too soon.

. Don't judge - describe instead.

. Don't give unsolicited advice that is

irrelevant to the present issue.

 

A Simple Concept...

DIFFICULT TO DO CONSISTENTLY

WITHOUT LOVING AWARENESS,

PATIENT PRACTICE,

AND FERVENT PRAYER

 

Produced by Restoration Ministries . Not to be sold for profit

. www.restorationministries.org . e-mail: mikedowg@aol.com

 

Mike Dowgiewicz holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Connecticut, an MBA from California Lutheran College, and a Master of Religious Education from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Sue Dowgiewicz holds a B.S. in Education from the University of Connecticut.

 

 

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture taken from the Holy Bible,

New International Version©. Copyright© 1978,1984 by International Bible Society.

Used by permission of

Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are

registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by

International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the

permission of International Bible Society.

Scriptures marked JNT are taken from the Jewish New Testament

by Dr. David H. Stern, PO Box 615, Clarksville, MD 21029

(410) 764-6144. (Jewish New Testament Publications, 1990).

Scriptures marked KJV are taken from the King James Version.

 

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

ISBN 1-890592-06-4

Copyright© 1998 Mike and Sue Dowgiewicz

 

Reprinted with Permission by the authors

 

 

 

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