How much should we focus on sin in one another? I am wrestling with this. Should we focus on it more, apply verses like Colossians 1:28:? “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”
Or should we focus more on the positive: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. ( Peter 4:8)
There is a place for both of these things.
I was talking with one of my best long time friends yesterday about how she has been working for years on not being late. In the last week or so she finally has really been having some victories in being on time. In discussing how others react to her lateness, or to her confession that it is a problem, she said one thing that really struck me, “People usually give me a bye. ”
I realized this is something I’ve been depending on for awhile. I confess my sins to my friends, but know they will usually give me a bye. They acknowledge my action or attitude is wrong and assume I will work on it. I do the same for them.
So how much do we give people the space to work on things themselves? How much do we call them to be intentional, hold them accountable, etc? As we get with people, do we have an agenda of things we want to address in their character, or do we allow them to set the pace of sharing about their life and what they need to address? Are we the driving force or are they?
Ephesians 4 has helped me a lot as I sort through this:
…as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph 4:15-16
If we’re not speaking the truth to one another, the church isn’t going to grow.
But the same is true for love, if we’re not loving one another, the church isn’t going to grow. So if we speak the truth, and others don’t feel loved, it ISN’T going to work. People have to feel loved, valued. They can’t feel like we always just want to get on them because they aren’t doing well enough.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph 4:29
I broke this verse down this morning, and it is awesome!
Unwholesome talk: primarily, of vegetable and animal substances, expresses what is of poor quality, unfit for use, putrid, rotten. So our talk should be leavened with the truth. It should be untainted by worldliness, selfish ambition, anger, bitterness, etc. I think we are far too lazy with our talk, saying any old thing that strikes us. We need to choose our words carefully, because they shape perceptions.
Let . . . come out: We control what comes out of our mouth. There are all kinds of things in our heart, some good, some not. Just because we have negative feelings, doesn’t mean we have to express them, to spread them around like a bad germ. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” Matt 12:35
Building: Constructing a structure. Our words can strengthen someone’s foundation. They can help someone fashion rooms of new convictions, new insight, new ways to serve.
Helpful: Literally “intrinsically good.” So our words should only render what is GOOD in people. We want to help build them up in a good way.
Need: Necessity. We are talking to meet peoples needs. It isn’t just idle chatter. We are shepherds. We are taking care of people. We are helping them to build the faith that will sustain them all the way into heaven, that will glorify God, that will grow them up into the person who reflects immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.
Benefit: Literally “give grace.” Our words are gifts to others. We’re passing on the very best from God, so that others may be encouraged, that the dry places in their heart can be nourished.
So in summary, we are helping people to build their lives on a solid foundation, with solid materials. We’re giving them the truth. We’re stressing the good things: love, joy, peace, patience, and so on. We’re helping them to identify to them the rotten timbers they have — the lies, the worldliness, etc. — so that they can have the vibrant life Christ came to give.
And how much do we help people? It depends on their maturity.
“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Heb 5:14
Young Christians will need help identifying the rotten planks. They haven’t learned to see clearly yet. There’s a reason it says in Hebrews 3 that we encourage one another because sin is deceitful. (Note that encouragement is a key word here.) It’s hard to distinguish the faulty materials we use to build. It takes practice and wisdom.
Young Christians will also need someone to provide them with the truth and good things — two by fours they can take and implement into their strong building of faith. Actually, ALL of us need these things, but the immature need it more.
I just started watching “Build”, a new musical written by Steve Johnson.
One good point he brings out in the play is that Jesus learned much of what he would need to build the kingdom through the craft of carpentry. Building is the same everywhere. You have to build on a good foundation, with good materials.
Our relationships are designed to help us build in a GOOD way. I still haven’t figured this all out, but in studying this out, I am excited to build!