Day 123

How to Handle Confrontation

Wisdom Psalm 55:1–11
New Testament John 3:1–21
Old Testament Joshua 21:20–22:34


Confrontation is not something that I find easy. It is a delicate operation. It is crucial to find the right approach, the right words for the job. Or, to use a golfing analogy, it is like the skill of knowing which club to use.

Those who are skilled at confrontation have a great variety of approaches and words, and know when and how to use the appropriate one.

Confrontation is not always the right course. Not every critic has to be confronted. Not every wrong statement needs to be refuted.

I greatly admire the skill of those who know when to confront and are good at confronting in a loving way. They have learnt how to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

When confrontation is necessary, how should you go about it?


Psalm 55:1–11

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David.

1 Listen to my prayer, O God,
   do not ignore my plea;
   2 hear me and answer me.
   My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
   3 because of what my enemy is saying,
   because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
   and assail me in their anger.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;
   the terrors of death have fallen on me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
   horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
   I would fly away and be at rest.
7 I would flee far away
   and stay in the desert;
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
   far from the tempest and storm. ”

9 Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
   for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
   malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
   threats and lies never leave its streets.


Confront evil prayerfully

You only have to switch on the news or read a newspaper to hear of terrorist attacks that take place in cities all around the world, news of gang-related violence and murders, and now the atrocities of war killing thousands and displacing millions of innocent civilians in Ukraine.

David also faced violent and destructive forces of evil at work in the city (vv.9b,11a).

As David faces his ‘enemy’ as they ‘revile’ him ‘in their anger’ (v.3), he says, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest – I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm’ (vv.6–8).

Escapism is a temptation – to shy away from confrontation. But evil must be confronted. Don’t run away. Don’t be overwhelmed. Rather do what you can. You can make a difference. As St Paul writes, ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:21).

David’s response to the violence and destruction is to ask God to intervene. He prays, ‘Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words’ (Psalm 55:9). Prayer is an important part of our response to ‘destructive forces’ (v.11).

Prayer and action go hand in hand. Even when you cannot help physically, you can always pray. God acts in response to your prayers.


‘Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me’ (v.1). Help me not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good.

New Testament

John 3:1–21

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven —the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.


Confront people lovingly

Confronting those who are in a position of weakness is relatively easy and sometimes cowardly. Confronting those in positions of power over us, through their job, status or wealth, takes great courage.

Jesus was the master at confrontation. He never shied away from it. On the other hand, he never acted out of any motive but love.

Nicodemus was a very powerful man; a moral and upright Pharisee and ‘a member of the Jewish ruling council’ (v.1). Jesus was undaunted by his position. He lovingly confronts Nicodemus with his need to be ‘born again’ (v.3) – to start anew, leave behind past hurts, habits and old ways. The message of Jesus is about transformation.

Nicodemus needs to be born again of water and the Spirit (v.5). The outward washing must be accompanied by the inward dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We do not see God physically now. But we see evidence of God. Like the wind, we cannot see it but we can see its effect on the trees and the leaves – ‘the invisible moving the visible’ (v.5, MSG).

Likewise, Jesus says you cannot see the Holy Spirit but you can see the impact on people’s lives: ‘The person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch – the Spirit – and becomes a living spirit’ (v.6, MSG).

Jesus lovingly challenges Nicodemus about his beliefs. Using the image of the snake in the desert (from Numbers 21), Jesus predicts that he himself will be lifted up on the cross so ‘that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life’ (v.15).

‘Believes’ means ‘trusts’. Every time we enter a relationship we take a risk. All relationships require trust. Trust in a dynamic relationship grows and endures.

Jesus teaches about God’s love. The Greek word used for ‘love’ in verse 16, agape, appears forty-four times in John’s Gospel alone. This verse sums up John’s Gospel and, indeed, the whole of the New Testament: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (v.16).

There is a God and his love is wide enough to embrace all humankind without distinction or exception. It is not a vague or sentimental love. God’s love is of immeasurable intensity, demonstrated by his willingness to sacrifice his only son for you and me.

The world is in such a mess. People often ask, ‘Why doesn’t God do something?’ The answer is that he has. He came in the person of his Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and rise again for you. Jesus understands about suffering. He suffered for us and he suffers alongside us.

Many people have ceased to believe in life after death. But Jesus promised that we would ‘have eternal life and [actually] live for ever!’ (v.15, AMP). This life is not the end. There is hope beyond the grave. Jesus offers you eternal life.

There is a big difference between confrontation and condemnation. Jesus confronted people, but he did not condemn them. Jesus did not come to condemn you but to save you from condemnation (vv.17–18). Like Jesus, you and I need to bring a message – not of condemnation, but the good news of salvation. To save means to pull a person out of danger, to liberate, to open the doors of a prison, to heal, to make whole.

Next, Jesus speaks of how light exposes and confronts darkness (vv.19–21). Jesus seems to be suggesting that the reason some people reject him is because ‘their deeds [are] evil’ (v.19). We do not want to come into the light because we do not want to give up the things that we know are wrong.

We do not want people to see the shadow areas in us. We hide all the dark inside us behind our apparent goodness. Sin hates light. When we sin, we want to avoid the light of Jesus. We do not want our evil deeds to be exposed. But Jesus came to confront the darkness. We may be afraid or ashamed. It may be extremely difficult for us. But we too must confront darkness in our lives and seek to live in the light of Christ – who loves you just as you are.

Martin Luther King said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’


Lord, thank you for the example of Jesus. Help me to live in the light and to have the courage to speak the truth in love.

Old Testament

Joshua 21:20–22:34

20 The rest of the Kohathite clans of the Levites were allotted towns from the tribe of Ephraim:

21 In the hill country of Ephraim they were given Shechem (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) and Gezer, 22 Kibzaim and Beth Horon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

23 Also from the tribe of Dan they received Eltekeh, Gibbethon, 24 Aijalon and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

25 From half the tribe of Manasseh they received Taanach and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—two towns.

26 All these ten towns and their pasturelands were given to the rest of the Kohathite clans.

27 The Levite clans of the Gershonites were given:

from the half-tribe of Manasseh,

Golan in Bashan (a city of refuge for one accused of murder ) and Be Eshterah, together with their pasturelands—two towns;

28 from the tribe of Issachar,

Kishion, Daberath, 29 Jarmuth and En Gannim, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

30 from the tribe of Asher,

Mishal, Abdon, 31 Helkath and Rehob, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

32 from the tribe of Naphtali,

Kedesh in Galilee (a city of refuge for one accused of murder ), Hammoth Dor and Kartan, together with their pasturelands—three towns.

33 The total number of towns of the Gershonite clans came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.

34 The Merarite clans (the rest of the Levites) were given:

from the tribe of Zebulun,

Jokneam, Kartah, 35 Dimnah and Nahalal, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

36 from the tribe of Reuben,

Bezer, Jahaz, 37 Kedemoth and Mephaath, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

38 from the tribe of Gad,

Ramoth in Gilead (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Mahanaim, 39 Heshbon and Jazer, together with their pasturelands—four towns in all.

40 The total number of towns allotted to the Merarite clans, who were the rest of the Levites, came to twelve.

41 The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all, together with their pasturelands. 42 Each of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it; this was true for all these towns.

43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

Eastern Tribes Return Home

22 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh 2 and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. 3 For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you. 4 Now that the LORD your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. ”

6 Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. 7 (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan along with their fellow Israelites.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, 8 saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites.”

9 So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the LORD through Moses.

10 When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. 11 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, 12 the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.

13 So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 14 With him they sent ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.

15 When they went to Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh—they said to them: 16 “The whole assembly of the LORD says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? 17 Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the LORD! 18 And are you now turning away from the LORD?

“‘If you rebel against the LORD today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. 19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the LORD’s land, where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the LORD or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the LORD our God. 20 When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”

21 Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the LORD, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the LORD and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the LORD himself call us to account.

24 “No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? 25 The LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the LORD.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the LORD.

26 “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ 27 On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the LORD at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the LORD.’

28 “And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the LORD’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’

29 “Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle. ”

30 When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. 31 And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the LORD is with us, because you have not been unfaithful to the LORD in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the LORD’s hand.”

32 Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. 33 They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived.

34 And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us—that the LORD is God.


Confront opposition wisely

Many conflicts could be avoided if people would talk to each other, rather than just talk about each other.

As a result of a genuine misunderstanding, the rest of Israel looked at the two and a half tribes (the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh) and thought they were doing the wrong thing and disobeying God (22:12).

However, instead of going to war straight away they were wise enough to confront them and challenge them verbally. Once they had done that it became clear that their fears were groundless.

They were right to want to interfere rather than ignore because what one part of the body does affects the whole body. They could not simply say, ‘It’s up to them what they do.’

When the two and a half tribes were confronted they gave their explanation: ‘We did it because we cared’ (v.24, MSG). They wanted to ensure their children kept the faith.

The explanation was satisfactory: ‘Now we’re convinced that God is present with us since you haven’t been disloyal to God in this matter’ (v.31, MSG).

This was one of the occasions when it was a good idea to have a meeting (vv.32–33). After the meeting ‘they talked no more about going to war’ (v.33).

Be careful not to jump to hasty adverse conclusions about other Christians and other churches. Do not attack them verbally behind their backs. If necessary, arrange a meeting, confront and hear the explanation. If we all do this, much needless division and ill-feeling will be avoided.

In this case, when they heard the explanation, instead of being sceptical or cynical, they accepted it and ‘praised God’ (v.33). When you make mistakes about people, be generous in admitting your mistakes. It takes a ‘big’ person to admit that they are wrong.


Lord, give me the wisdom to know when it is important to meet, to confront and to hear explanations. Help us to avoid unnecessary divisions and disunity. Help me to learn the skills of loving confrontation.

Pippa adds

In Psalm 55:9–10 it says:

‘I see violence and strife in the city. They prowl about... malice and abuse are within it.’

There is still so much of this in so many cities today. We need to keep praying and working to advance the kingdom of God.



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James Washington (ed), A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., (Harper One, 2003).

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

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