Confronting One Another


Confront one another! Wow, that sounds like fighting words! What marriage needs a deliberate argument? That is a good question. And the answer does not sound right. Every marriage needs a deliberate argument sometimes times if you want to think of confrontation as an argument. In reality not all confrontation escalates into an argument. But, if that is what it takes to clear the air or to help one another make a course correction then it is a short term discomfort in exchange for a long term gain.

Several weeks ago my wife looked me eye-to-eye and said, “Your ministry work is not going to allow you sufficient time to finish this project list. You keep putting things off with the promise that you will get back to finishing what you have started. I appreciate all you do and all you want to do, but some of these things need to be done in a timely way. I have done the research to find dependable people who charge reasonable prices to complete some of the projects you have well-meaningly started. I want your permission to execute contracting them out to complete them.”

I did not like the idea and I did not like even more that she did not seem to appreciate all my efforts. But, she confronted me kindly, honestly, respectfully and she spoke the truth in love. Yes, there was a part of me that wanted to argue with her (and there was a bit of that in good taste), but I had to concede that she was correct. There were two of those projects that I did not know how to complete without some research and experimentation (which meant even more time investment). I could eventually get them done and it is difficult for me to pay someone else to do what I can (or can figure out how to) do. I accepted her confrontation. The short term pain for me was not so much having to concede, but the paying someone to do these things. Nonetheless, the long term gain will be that they are completed in a timely fashion, she will be grateful and we can enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor together.

Confronting one’s spouse over foolishness or sinfulness is more difficult. It means that we must practice some hard biblical principles like the following:

Galatians 6:1—2: In this passage Paul expects believers who are spiritually minded to not ignore the fact of sin in another’s life. Rather, Paul expects that we confront with the intent to restore that person to fellowship with the Savior. He expresses this desire with two caveats. First, he indicates that we should be sensitive to our own temptation (like, a chance to be controlling or overly critical). Second, we must be willing to help this person to carry their burden. So, if you are going to confront your mate with frivolous spending habits, first check your own spending habits. And, then, be ready to help by suggesting that the two of you attend a Crown Ministry small group study on stewardship. A third implication from this passage is that we should use the Scriptures as the standard of judgment. Note, Paul says, if the person is caught in a sin. There is only one way to establish sin and that is by using God’s standard as our measuring rod.

Matthew 18:15ff: Of course this is the classic passage on church discipline. However, to describe it as such automatically makes it sound negative. The intent is not negative, but positive. It is the recognition that people (spouses included) are sometimes stubborn in their sin. A proper compassionate confrontation may be met with strong resistance and defensiveness. However, give it some time and then revisit the issue. If there is not a course correction, there is a second step. Seek someone to address the issue with you (like a pastor or a trusted friend (one that both of you trust). Eventually, depending on the nature of the issue (like a tendency towards explosive anger), church discipline may need to be pursued.

Now, with all that heavy stuff considered, let us finish this discussion by talking about confronting things that are not sinful but nonetheless painful or offensive. For example, perhaps a woman has married a man from a different subculture (not culture as in Russian or Mexican), but simply a different region of the country or a different economic strata. He did a pretty good job of watching his language or sub-cultural behavioral tendencies during the courtship, but now he relaxes and reverts. She finds his habit or language offensive—it embarrasses her and makes her blush. She should confront this issue. She should do so at a time when they are booth in a good mood. She should say something like this, “Honey, I want share something with you because I think you can help me. You know in my experience growing up and in my church community  words like ________ and _______ were frowned upon. I know that in your background they were just normal vocabulary. When you use them I feel disrespected. I know that is not your intent, but it is true. Would you be willing to work at eliminating these from you word bank?”

He will likely respond positively though somewhat frustrated. She can then say, “Thank you, please let me know how I could help you.”

You see confrontation is not a nasty word, yet it is not an easy task. Nonetheless, it does help us to grow and reflect the glory of God in our lives and in our marriages.

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