There are two ways in which we deal with people. I speak very generally here, of course. We can walk with them or we can confront them. Or to put in terms of our physical alignment with them, we can be “by their side” or we can be “face-to-face”. In life it is essential to know when to be in each position. To be walking with someone who should be confronted can be very harmful and vice versa.
The general way in which we conduct ourselves in reference to others is to walk with them. When we are talking to people, seeking their opinion, sharing our lives, providing them with services, we are walking with them. All kinds of things happen in the general concourse of life through people walking side by side. There is no confrontation. People are getting on with life and rubbing along with each other. And we trust, through such interactions, there is mutual benefit. I note in passing, that this is, of course, what the general flow of fellowship in church is like.
However, there are times when the relationship has to change. Something has happened to mean that there has to be a face to face engagement. This may simply be because there is an issue that has arisen that needs to be sorted out. The sensible thing to do in such an issue is to say to the party “we need to sort this out”. To fail to do this and ‘run for the hills’ at the first sign that something needs to be faced up to, has disastrous consequences. If issues are not dealt with, marriages start to crumble, churches start to become beset with unresolved issues, workplaces have all kinds of unresolved matters hanging around.
There are also times when someone needs to be rebuked. They need to be tackled about their behaviour. To fail to do so can encourage them in a bad way. This is particularly so in bringing up children. If children are not appropriately challenged about bad behaviour then all kinds of bad consequences can ensue. Face-to-face dealing is not a luxury, it is essential.
On the other hand we must note here that to be running to confront too regularly and too early can be disastrous for relationships and the general conviviality of life. Times of gentle mutually beneficial interaction can suddenly (and unnecessarily) become times of confrontation.