Words We Prefer Not to Hear: “Selflessness,” Part 4 March 04 2016
In the last two blogs we have covered how to lovingly “help our brother take the speck out of his eye,” after we have taken the log out of our own eye. We addressed two weeks ago how to do that with someone for whom we have responsibility to manage or train (such as our children or an employee – see February 19).
Last week we looked at an example of how to help someone for whom we do not have that responsibility but who is willing to listen and respond. We saw from several passages in Proverbs that wisdom is measured not in how someone gives out advice but how he receives it. The person from last week’s blog receives it willingly, and sometimes even eagerly, because he knows that this is an opportunity to become more spiritually “wise.”
Now comes the hard one. What if we deeply care about an individual, prayerfully go to him to help him take the speck out of his eye, lovingly explain the concern, but he does not accept it well? What if he becomes upset, and perhaps even cuts off the relationship? Whereas the person in last week’s example would have said “thank you for your love in pointing this out to me,” the person in today’s blog might respond with “Who are you to tell me that?” and he questions your motives, spirituality, and integrity.
This type of conversation can escalate out of control very quickly, so even before you go, there are a few things you can do. First, simply ask if you could get together to discuss something you are concerned about. His reaction to just asking that question will help you discern whether he is open to having the conversation. A “no” will tell you right away that you may not want to proceed at that time.
You should also prayerfully consider what you would do if an adverse reaction occurs. Normally, this reaction will not come as a surprise. You will often have hints that this is a possibility, so it is important to plan for how to present the information as well as you can, and plan what you will do to lovingly respond if he reacts badly (Proverbs 15:28).
James 1:19-20 comes into play here: “but let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” as does “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). It is hard to resist giving an immediate rebuttal to the other person’s angry words, but remember that these biblical admonitions are for us who are going to someone else we care about. We are held responsible for demonstrating love to that other person, not how he responds. If we respond by raising our own voices, demonstrating anger, or otherwise sinning in the process, we not only are held accountable for that by God, but may miss an opportunity for the other person to see that “the love of Christ controls us.” (II Corinthians 5:14). We are to correct even those in opposition with gentleness, without being argumentative (II Timothy 2:24,26), whatever their spiritual condition.
I recall an incident at work from a few years back. With my business being in transportation projects, we conduct a lot of public meetings to get input. Some people can get very upset about certain aspects of a project, and they are not afraid to let us know. I was at one meeting where a lady stood up, started describing her problem, and her voice kept getting louder and louder as she became more and more agitated. She thought she had a following of other people around her, but all of a sudden she realized what she was doing, how foolish she was looking, and she just sat down. We proceeded to provide an answer (a gentle one) and the meeting had no other disturbances the rest of the night.
Now lets say you lovingly go to a brother to help him with his speck, and he is initially resisting. There are many possibilities for what may happen from this point on:
He may come to his senses like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). He may come back to you at a later time and even thank you for how you tried to help him. This is a time for great rejoicing, but the reality is, it may or may not happen.
He may never respond. Even though you may be deeply saddened, the Lord honors your faithfulness in lovingly reaching out to your friend or family member. Jesus told the rich young ruler what he needed to hear (Luke 18:18-25). Even though the man walked away, Jesus was grieved but did not beg, nor did he soften the message. Jesus simply conveyed the truth and let the man wrestle with his response.
He may even become hostile. Don’t get to the point where you are nagging or begging. Remember the admonition in Proverbs 9:8, “Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you.” If this person has made repeated rejections of your loving attempts, just stop. Conviction is the job of the Holy Spirit, not yours. You are merely to be the tool in God’s hand to point out the speck and are to be prepared to help take the speck out. In the meantime, pray and look for opportunities to show love without words. Although I Peter 3:1-2 is directed to wives (that their husbands may be “won without a word by the behavior of their wives”), the principle applies to all of us who wish to minister to friends and family when they are not open.
Remember that it is not our responsibility to change someone’s heart. That is between the person and the Lord. Knowing that we are not responsible for an individual’s choices or how a situation turns out gives us great freedom, even though there may also be great heartache.
Now lets go back to where we started: Matthew 7:1-5. It is possible that, in one or more of these conversations, your brother proceeds to provide a laundry list of how you have failed. This is a reminder and an opportunity to do a double check of any logs that may still be in your own eye. Perhaps there is something that he pointed out that you needed to know. In that case, stop dealing with the other person in order to deal with the log in your own eye. Taking the logs out of our own eyes is a lifelong process.
Even if the other person delivered it with evil intent, you need to examine yourself. Perhaps there is something said that you were previously unaware of. It may also be something that is not legitimate and, before God, you don’t need to change. In either case, it is an opportunity for you to grow in wisdom.
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