For as long as I can remember I have found that few Christians know how to deliver reproof to their brothers and sisters in a way that is effective and humane. We have turned “speaking the truth in love” into a virtual blank check to correct others at any time and in any form we think permissible.
Our reasoning seems simple enough. The Scripture speaks of loving reproof and the wounds of a friend. We then take these kinds of wisdom texts and immerse them in our personality and emotional life. Then we feel free to correct almost at will. Blogs have made this even easier. I tried to refer to something like this about six months ago and it was widely misunderstood.
I receive reproof routinely. I suppose this goes with the territory if you write publicly. The logic seems to be that a writer must be willing to take anything since they posted their comments online. I understand the argument but I simply do not agree with it. If a person is my friend I deal with them accordingly. If they are not then I treat them as I would want to be treated, in public or in private.
A friend recently commented on this problem by writing:
My sorrow over how some people respond to you has little to do with their opposition to your posts and your position—that's a different reaction altogether.
My sorrow is that persons who are supposed to have the heart of pastors, friends, brothers, etc. would approach anyone in an arrogant, ungracious, and unloving manner. I often think that when I see some of the reactions people give to one another in written form: "There's not an ounce of love to be detected in this!"
Honestly, if you thought your own son were making some bad choices, how you would approach him? I have had to repent of this mode of “setting people straight” a l-o-n-g time ago. In the process of growing up, I had to learn that ideological purity in any arena of disagreement should never trump love or relationship. The non-Christian world understands this better than many of us. How much more should the Christian community "get" this?
I am struck by my friend’s words about the non-Christian world. I think one reason Christian’s react to each other as they do is because they have neither grown up emotionally nor understood that their role is not to be “setting people straight” all the time.
"For one human being to love another:
that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks,
the last test and proof, the work for which
all other work is but preparation."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
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Such helpful, beautiful, and true words. Thank you.