Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/12/13/helping-one-another-change/
I just extracted a note from Dave Black’s blog to The Jesus Paradigm. (That site supports his book by the same name as well as a few others that don’t have their own domain name.) In it Dave talks about admonishing, encouraging, and upholding. You’ll have to go read the post to find out what these are about.
For my purposes here, they are all ways in which we help one another change for the better. In my view, there’s too little helpful activity of this nature in our churches today. We don’t want to get into each other’s business, and often we’re in congregations that are large enough that we don’t really know one another’s business enough to be helpful. In my own congregation I know that one of the considerations whenever we discuss greeting people is that there is a risk of approaching a life-long member as a new visitor. If I can’t be sure a person is a part of the congregation, how can I possibly respond to them in a helpful way about anything else?
But I think that even in groups small enough to do so, we would have a hard time doing it. We seem to move too easily from neglect to condemnation without taking the necessary steps in between. Dave points out the different ways of handling different people. In order to interact with someone in a helpful way, whether correction or encouragement or any other approach, you have to know them pretty well. One big difference between correction and condemnation is simply the relationship between giver and receiver.
I “correct” my wife’s use of the computer on a regular basis. I know more about computers than she does, she knows that, and so it generally works. Even so, it still won’t work if I am condescending or impatient. But if I both understand her starting point and work to help her get to where she wants to go, things work extremely well.
She, on the other hand, corrects my work in the kitchen. It turns out that in the same set of circumstances, I can actually produce a meal with her direction. The things I don’t know how to do she does. The things I might ignore, like precisely which position the oven shelves occupy, she encourages me to get right.
So here we are in the church. Let me just list some things we might need to work toward in our churches so we can truly help one another change.
- We need to know one another better, whatever that takes. If that means more home churches, great! If you can find a way in a large church to get some sort of accountability as a group, great!
- We need to understand forgiveness. I hear someone saying that we’re talking about correcting, not letting people off the hook for their misdeeds. That attitude is precisely the problem. Correction that comes with condemnation isn’t generally going to be mutual. We are all sinners together looking to Jesus. We abuse this in two ways. First, we decide we’re all sinners, so we can just forget about trying to change. Second, we can decide that some sinners are more equal than others. I think the call of Jesus is to mutuality. We are all sinners. We all press toward the mark.
- We need to ditch our pride. Ouch! Just about anything we do, even what is normally good, will be spoiled by pride.
- We need to know the difference between essentials and non-essentials. Too often when we correct others, we are asking them to follow our traditions instead of theirs. If you want to successfully show someone a better way, it helps if the way you’re showing them actually is better.
- We need to let love reign in us. All of 1 John is filled with excellent material, but 1 John 4 is particularly important on this point. Note that there is some help here defining love as well as applying it.
We definitely need to get past the point where the only encouragement or exhortation in our churches comes from the pulpit, and is therefore easily ignored by those in the pews.
Let us pay attention to each other, so as to stir up of love and good works … (Hebrews 10:24).
12Therefore restore the weakened hands and the disabled knees, 13and prepare straight paths for your feet so that the lame might not stumble but rather might be healed (Hebrews 12:12-13).