Caring, Creative Confrontation

Today’s scripture: I Kings 18:1-2, 17-18, 39, 43-45 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Steve Adams):

Author’s note: I have to be honest! I’m often not very good at giving or receiving correction, the subject of this devotional. However, I hope my struggles with it produce some insights that will benefit you.

What if Elijah hadn’t corrected Ahab? Ahab wouldn’t have had a chance to learn the truth, and neither would the people of Israel. In this case, the confrontation was an answer to the false accusation that Elijah was the cause of Israel’s drought. But what about confrontation in our everyday lives — not with our adversaries — but with people that we live with, work with, and go to church with?

Like many things in life, confrontation can be either life-giving, or it can destroy. It can help someone return to God when they’ve been astray, and become closer to others. Or it can break up friendships and shame the hearer into believing they’re not good enough for God or others to love them. The book of James vividly describes how hard it is to control what we say (especially when we’re frustrated or angry, I might add). Correction can get ugly, but it doesn’t have to. Galatians 6:1 says, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness (as Galatians 5:22 says, gentleness is a fruit of the spirit).

I see healthy confrontation and correction as being an integrated part of a loving life. We get used to saying what needs to be said about small issues, so we avoid blowing up in anger when the unaddressed small things become monsters. The most important element is that both parties fully realize “I care about you, and I respect you — and so does God!” I’ve also learned that praying to God for the person you need to confront — praying for every word exchanged between the two of you, for every thought during the conversation — works miracles. With that as your foundation, I believe you will sense if the time is right to initiate the conversation. Prayer opens the door up to creative confrontation! For example, if it’s a beautiful day outside, how about sitting on the porch or in the garden to have your talk? God is infinitely creative and can give us fresh ideas on how to approach it.

Scripture is useful for teaching, reproof, and correction, so that we will be proficient, equipped for every good work. I think of it as getting us back in alignment with the truth when we’ve gone astray. Truth is rare, though, and not easily attained — and sustained — in our lives. Think for a moment, how many wrong roads you’ve taken in your life that you thought were “it!” Wisdom, which I think of as truth for the situation at hand, cries aloud in the street — she raises her voice in the public squares, as Proverbs says — but who hears her?

We need to be prepared to accept correction as well as give it. And if my friend, coworker, child, or spouse confronts me too harshly, then it’s time for forgiveness. Nobody’s perfect! I need to forgive others as Christ forgave me.

Thought for the day: Do we always have to say something in order to correct someone? As the old saying goes, “The best sermon is a life well-lived!” Maybe today I need to concentrate on being a good example, and let the rest take care of itself!

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.