Words We Prefer Not to Hear: "Selflessness" Part 2 February 19 2016
In the January 22 blog, the point was made that some individuals might be concerned that being selfless could be a prescription for becoming a doormat. Or they might think that others will escape personal responsibility or be encouraged to continue in their bad behavior. The question is, when do we need to speak up about these things?
Lets start with Matthew 7:1-5. In this remarkable passage, Jesus was saying that our natural inclination is to find something wrong (the speck) in someone else’s life when we often have a much greater problem (the log) in our own life.
We don’t need to observe human behavior very long to see this truth in action. We tend to be much less sensitive to our own faults than the faults we perceive in others (see Romans 2:1). We don’t like to be called a “hypocrite,” (verse 5) but Jesus was very straightforward; that is what we are when we do not take the log out of our own eye first.
But we need to keep reading through the end of verse 5: “… and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus said that the result in looking at our own life first is that we will be able to help our brother(s); we are just not in a position to help our brother with his speck(s) if we have not first removed the log(s) in our own eye.
Galatians 6:1-2 says something very similar: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” In other words, we are to seek to help others when they are struggling, but we should be watching our own behavior in the process.
Lets look at three different situations for how to help our brother with the speck in his life:
When we have a designated responsibility for supervising or training (our children, an employee, or a member of the flock, for example),
When we don’t have that supervising responsibility, but we have the kind of relationship with them where they are usually ready to listen to us,
When we don’t have that supervising responsibility and we are concerned that they will not be receptive to what we might have to say.
We’ll look at the first example this week and go on to the others in the next two weeks.
It is especially important to help take the speck out of someone else’s life when we have responsibility for supervising or training them. Helping our children see “the speck in their eye” is one of our responsibilities, regardless of how well they may receive it. Our responsibility is to do this in love, because it is best for them, not because we are bothered or irritated by it. We can start by communicating it in the most loving and gracious way that we can (Colossians 4:6 – “let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt”), yet also firm when the occasion requires it.
Sometimes this can be a very difficult conversation to have, and we would prefer not to have it. But as an act of love, we say what needs to be said in a Galatians 6:1 manner: gentle, loving, but firm. With our children, each incident is an opportunity for discipleship, helping them to establish biblical patterns of living. Lesson 16 of Self-Confrontation explains how this discipleship process can work with children (see page W201 in the Student Workbook):
Step 1: Tell them what and why; then
Step 2: Show them how; then
Step 3: Get them started; then
Step 4: Keep them going, and finally
Step 5: See that they can pass it on
The beauty of God’s design for relationships is that we are not responsible for how children or employees individually receive the message. What they do with it is their responsibility before God, but we are held accountable for conveying the message and for how it is delivered. Over time, if we are consistently, lovingly helping them with their specks, they may come to understand the proverb “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6), but it is also possible that they will not. Seeing them go their own way can be heart-wrenching. But even in this case, we can have the peace of God that we have been faithful to carry out our responsibility.
Next week we will look at how to help someone for whom we do not have supervisory responsibility, but who appears to be ready to listen and change.
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