I love people. I love being around them, I love talking, interacting, and hanging out with them. I love the diversity of people and the varying experiences they have. I love how all those merge into a single person to create a unique and diverse human being. I simply love people. Does that ever become a problem? Well…it can be. Because I also love the Bible. I love its truth, its hope, its grace, it’s reflection of the brokenness of God’s people, and I love how Christ is seen on every single page. We wouldn’t think that these two could be in tension with one another but they are…because I make them that way.
A number of months ago I sat and listened to a challenge that I have taken to heart and wrestled with as well. The question posed was: Do you love people more than you do the Word of God? Off the cusp my answer was “of course not!” But the more I looked within and wrestled with that challenging question, and the more I interacted with people, I began to wonder if I did! I love God’s Word but am I willing to stand on it while speaking truths into lives of others? Am I willing to risk relationships now and in the future?
The struggle we have is that we are a society that allows people to be who they are. We are a society that gives freedom to religion and the expression of that religion. But those two things don’t bother me. I don’t expect people to believe the same as I do. But when we read the same Scripture, pray to the same God, and believe the same things? It now feels complicated and I’m uneasy confronting a sin I see in your life. Why? Because I hate confrontation. But my biggest fear is that I cannot control how you will take my “Gospel truth words.” Will you take them with a grain of salt? Will you appreciate my concern? Will you get angry and storm out? Will you ever want to speak to me again? With so many wonders, and questions often times my mouth stays shut.
Quite a number of years ago I had a “discussion” with someone regarding the Word of God and a story in it. And while it started as a “discussion” by the time it got over there was accusations and awkward silence. In the end one of us left the room. The problem? It wasn’t the Word of God that harmed and wounded…it was me. It was my use of it. And the way I used it was to harm. So yes, I love the Word of God more than I do people but never should the Word of God be used to harm.
We enter into the lives of people every single day, and while some may be believers others are not. But regardless of their belief the opportunity we have is to share Gospel truth. A Gospel that declares that the message we have heard is that “we should love one another” (1 John 3). A gospel that speaks of the grace and redemption of God’s people because of the sacrificial atoning love of Jesus Christ (1 John 2:2). A redemption and sacrifice that happened because of sin (1 Peter 2:24). A work upon the cross that took place because of the way that you and I TREAT the very word of God and each other. Ironic (and humbling) how I used the proof of God’s love to hurt, bind, and my own ego to wound. All the things that are NOT in Scripture.
Do you love the Word of God more than you love God’s people? Our answer should be a firm “yes.” But we need to understand that the Word of God loves people – and it loves people more than you or I do. Christ didn’t come to build up an ego, he came to break ours down and Scripture shouts that out. So what are we to do when brothers and sisters sin? What are we to do when the lives of others around us stray from the Word of God? How are we to move forward in speaking the truth of God to other believers AND NOT RUIN RELATIONSHIPS? Here are a few suggestions that I try to follow (after many failed attempts that are still trying to be worked through):
1) Remember that our own plank needs to be dealt with before dealing with someone else’s. (Matthew 7:5)
2) Realize that you are in need of God’s truth just as much as the next person. So while we tend to find ourselves on our “high horse” remembering that we don’t have one goes a long way (we also call this “humility” and Romans 3:23 has some truth to swallow there).
3) SEE #1….AGAIN
4) Remember that the Word of God should speak the truth – not you. We need to “check ourselves” while in hard conversations with people (something I failed to do in my story above). This should never be about me but always about them and God and our desire for the two to be in sync.
5) Remember to ALWAYS come with love. When love is our guiding voice than hard conversations and discussions can be had.
6) Make sure you are using God’s Word to heal and restore and not bind, harm, wound, and slay. Hebrews 4:12 declares that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword but that doesn’t mean we are swing away at people with our Bibles as a weapon. People respond to love and not harm (if we need proof of this then look at ANYTHING in the Gospels and the work of Christ).
7) Remember to listen, hear, ask questions, and try to understand. Speaking God’s Word into the life of someone who is down a destructive path requires us to engage different parts of our body. So remembering to use our head, ears, mouth, tongue, and anything else is always good.
8) When it comes to approaching them, put yourself in their shoes. How would you like to be approached? What would make it easier for you to take that “spoon full of medicine”? Remembering that we are brothers and sisters and in need of care helps us to understand time, place, and how to choose our words wisely.
9) Lastly, allow God’s word to go first and not our own. God’s word doesn’t need my help or for me to defend it. So allow his truth, grace, and love to speak, heal, confront, and restore.
Relationships are hard as it is and the last thing we need is ME getting in the way when a brother or sister is down a path of sin. Remembering that we all are broken and in need of the Holy Spirit’s redemptive work has to be the first, and last, place we go. Allow God’s truth to speak and not our own. And in the end, when we’ve placed the situation at the feet of God, when we’ve sought his guidance in the use of our tongue and heart, there is no better place to rest. Can we control how they will respond? No we cannot. But neither are we to worry about it either. We are called to allow the loving Word of God to speak restorative-truth to people and that’s it.
And remember to come back to #1. A LOT.