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Miniblog #172: On the Vital Importance of Christians Practicing Gracious Confrontation

by Carson T. Clark on January 24, 2013

Let’s not mince words. Much of my life as a Christian has been the saga of a well-intentioned ass. That includes inadvertently causing people much pain, foolishly writing a great many idiotic things, often disappointing loved ones by failing to live up to my word, and so forth. This isn’t some sort of vague recognition about my fallen condition with a begrudging admission of my need for grace. No, I’m cutting past all of our pious pleasantries to say it like it is.11.I’ve effed up with such incredible frequency that it’d be virtually impossible not to be keenly aware of my obvious faults, frustrating weaknesses, inexcusable offenses, and sordid errors. I’d like to think I’ve made a good deal of progress in the ol’ sanctification and fruits of the Spirit departments since graduating high school nearly a decade ago, but the unsightly truth is that I remain much the same man I was back then–my character has grown up but my human nature is unaltered. That having been said, and as uncomfortable as this has been, one thing I’ve only become more convinced of the past decade is the need for Christians to assertively challenge one another.22.That adjective is a precise word choice. I’m using assertive as a healthy alternative to unhealthy aggression, passive-aggression, or covert-aggression. Speaking from life experience, nearly all the occasions of significant development, growth, healing, maturation, or the like have come when someone had the joint cojones and wisdom to forthrightly yet humbly ask the difficult question, highlight my hypocrisy, call me on my crap, or tell me to be a man and step up. As much as it tends to violate our psychologically-saturated social etiquette,33.To be clear, that’s not a cheap shot at psychology nor a broad dismissal. It’s a description of our cultural milieu. I’ve personally benefited a great deal from the discerning integration of theology and psychology, and actively encourage others to do the same. Key word: discerning. I think it vitally important. Look at Jesus and the woman at the well as a prime example. How many sermons have I heard, and Bible studies have I attended, in which the pastor/leader missed one-half the story by focusing either on Jesus’ grace or His confrontation in that John 4 passage? Yes, Jesus seriously violated ethnic cultural norms and gender social etiquette to exhibit profound compassion, grace, humility, love, and mercy. None of that should be minimized.44.In fact, it needs to be clearly highlighted. I don’t think one can faithfully teach or preach this text without drawing attention to those things. Yet neither should we downplay or altogether ignore how candidly she was busted on her sexual sins; Jesus called her on the fact that she gets around. Allow me to suggest this both-and model of gracious confrontation is Jesus’ habit recorded all throughout the Gospels and should remain vitally important as our model today. It has been in my life, anyway.55.While I’ve already worked hard to subtly paint a balanced picture, I’d be remiss not to be explicit about something. For as much as I’ve benefited from from gracious confrontation, I’ve always been terribly wounded by condemning confrontation. Confrontation can easily be, and often is, terribly abused by those who lack the aforementioned traits of compassion, grace, humility, love, and mercy. Quite often it’s used as a concealed–even baptized–power ploy rather than as a transparent servant act, which is an awful, bullshit abuse of the christian faith for which I have scant patience.

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