Never go "behind someone's back."

Mark 6:17–20

For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

This is a good example of how to do confrontation right. But make no mistake, John is about to be executed for doing things right.

Success in the kingdom of Heaven isn’t the same as success in this world.

What John does right is take his criticism directly to Herod. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” That’s a fact, not John’s opinion.

So, we get an essential rule about criticism—be on solid ground logically. Carefully consider whether there is a valid counterargument. If so, tailor your criticism to fit the situation. You may need to soften it up. It may be wiser to just open up a winsome dialogue— “Something’s bothering me.”

Still, John is bold in daring to criticize the king. Herod seems to appreciate that. He’s interested in what John has to say and heard him gladly.

That’s an impressive response to criticism. Herod seems to be a stand-up guy.

So, the lesson here comes with a caveat. Criticism should be given directly to the person you’re criticizing. Never go “behind someone’s back.”

But don’t assume they’ll take it well.

Jesus’s advice on confrontation agrees with this perfectly.

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’” — Matthew 18:15–16

Jesus even gives us the specifics of what to do next if they don’t take it well.

Think this through in advance. Confronting people, especially friends, is an important part of kingdom living. But it’s rarely simple. Sin continues to infect us all.

Think carefully, whether you’re on the sending or receiving end of constructive criticism.

God is glorified when His people do this well.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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