“As a matter of honor, one man owes it to another to manifest the truth.”Thomas Aquinas
I sat listening while Kim shared a problem she was having with the other moms at her kid’s school. “I feel like they’re looking at me and talking about me.” she glanced away, chin tucked and shifted in her chair.
“Well…” I groped for words of reassurance, but I was stuck. See, I knew exactly what the problem was, had witnessed it. Her son was unkind to the kids in his class and had developed a reputation for cruel words. The other parents didn’t want their kids hanging out with him and wondered why his mom allowed his behavior.
I looked down and rubbed an imaginary spot on the dining room table. I stared at it, my knee bouncing as I wavered between the truth I knew and the truth I was willing to share. If I told her, would she accept it? Receive it?
In the end, I shared it–a softened rendition, anyway–out of compassion and love for her.
And our relationship was never the same.
What is it about the human psyche that we cannot bear an instructive word about ourselves? Yet, God calls us to encourage one another to greater degrees of holiness and spiritual growth.
“Well, if someone encouraged me, I’d listen.” Oh, really? We say that, maybe even mean it (a little bit) but when it comes down to the reality of it . . . hmm. I don’t know about you, but my flesh doesn’t go down without some fireworks–big, messy, missile launching displays of pride.
“But shouldn’t “encouragement” be uplifting, make us feel inspired?” That’s certainly one aspect of it, an inspiration to hope and persevere, a well timed word of affirmation, a loving pat on the back.
But is there more to it?
“Encourage.” Oh, how I insulate myself with that word! It’s a gentle, “loving” word, a comfortable word we wrap around ourselves like a fuzzy blanket. But let’s consider another aspect of encouragement: exhortation, spurring one another towards spiritual maturity –
I don’t know about you, but though this ranch girl loves horses, she doesn’t like spurs.
They are sharp, pointed, and painful.
But they are effective at getting a horse trotting down the right path.
Now, I imagine what you’re thinking, “Sure, easy for you to talk about “fireworks,” but how do you respond to exhortation–in real time?” You’re right, what about me? How do I respond when the sharp metal of an “encouraging” spur digs into my side?
I get defensive, and I don’t listen.
A comment my husband once made to me paints a clear picture, “You don’t listen to anybody except God, Pastor Jay, and Peggy (my BSF Teaching Leader at the time).” I laughed–we both did–at the truth of that statement, but it illustrates what I’m talking about: We want to live out Christianity on our terms, free from the input of those we haven’t “invited” to speak truth into our lives, those whom we haven’t granted “permission.”
“. . . invited” to speak truth into our lives . . . “permission.” Now there’s a lie or two from the pit of hell–literally–for only the enemy would urge us to take a position that protects our flesh.
And since when does Truth need an invitation? According to Jesus, Truth is the invitation.¹
Friends, let’s not be fooled, the enemy stirs us to reject the Spirit’s voice and protect our pride. He feeds us the lie that we’re each a separate part of the body, with our own rights and the freedom to do what we want. But what does Scripture say?
As Christians, we are each part of one body–the Body of Christ. But the enemy plots to deceive and divide. He promotes a “limb” attitude instead of a “Body” attitude. And too often he succeeds, for how many times have you and I sacrificed the sanctity of the Body to secure the comfort of our own little limb?
The enemy seeks to weaken our witness with his watered down psycho-babble brand of “faith.” He wants to convince us that no one has the right to share truth with us unless we “invite” them or “give them permission” to do so. He whispers, “You are only accountable to God.”
But we don’t have to buy into it.
We don’t have to lie down for it, either.
With the help of God’s grace, we can respond to His call to deeper maturity. We can cultivate a teachable spirit.
So, today, let’s not take those “spurs” of encouragement as an affront. Instead, let’s take them as God intended:
as the sanctifying work of the Spirit
as evidence that the Body of Christ is working together, functioning just as God planned.
What about you? What helps you to digest the challenging input of others, instead of rejecting it?
(Take courage! Next week we’re going to explore what “speaking the truth in love” looks like.)
Featured photo by Photo by Element5 Digital | Other photos courtesy of Crestock.com