“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 –
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds . . . and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
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?
. . . The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” . . . If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. I Corinthians 12:12-26 NIV
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
Thank you for this post, Bethany, and for your candor in sharing your story. There have been a number of times in my life when fellow believers have cared (and dared) enough to tell me honestly that they thought I was heading in the wrong direction. Sometimes, after prayer and soul-searching, I agreed with their assessment; other times, I disagreed, and we talked about it. In every case, I was grateful that they took the courageous step of speaking up. If they were right and I was wrong, I wanted to make the appropriate course corrections in my life. If they were mistaken, if they had somehow misinterpreted something I had done or said, then we could talk together and correct the misimpression. In either case, candor is always healthier and more godly than a cowardly and dysfunctional silence. Thank you and God bless you, Bethany, for sharing this wise insight.
Thanks, Jim. I really appreciated your additional insight to talk with someone who had shared something with us that may have been the result of a misunderstanding. So much healthier, than leaving it hanging in the air as the “cowardly and dysfunctional silence” we fall back on too often. Thanks for sharing your process. 🙂
OK – now you’re gettin’ personal! I ditto Eva’s OUCH! Once again God has you peering into my life and exposing some darkness. How do you do that? Oh wait – just answered that question. I praise Him for speaking to and through you, my friend. Your years of developed listening are showing and it is indeed sweet. Truth frees – if we will allow it to do it’s transforming work under the hand of the Holy Spirit. Now why does this flesh of mine so resist that still? Oh wretched woman… Please keep speaking to my heart!
Loved, “Truth frees – if we will allow it to do it’s transforming work under the hand of the Holy Spirit. ” Amen and amen!
Speaking of the Body, a few weeks ago I had my left wrist and thumb in a splint for 10 days. Boy, did I ever appreciate that appendage when I was able to use it again! We really are all necessary.
We are so dependent on each other! Sometimes we forget that. Thanks for sharing.
Bethany, This is one of your best-of-the-best posts in my humble perspective. Spirit-led and wonderfully written, thank you for sharing. luke
Thanks, Luke. 🙂
Great words, once again!
Thanks, Karen. 🙂 They are hard words to live, and even harder words to write.
Wow! So true! Just got spurred at work by a co worker who told me I’m not very approachable because I get defensive! Yikes! I took a deep breath and said ya, I guess I need to work on that! Then I went home and ranted to my husband and then I prayed about it and asked God to help me with this and guess what! I had another co worker come and talk with me and I was able to witness with her about what God had done in my life and how she could come to know Him!!!! Sometimes I think just being obedient and willing to let God work is all it takes and bam! God uses you!
I loved your story! A “timely word in season.” Thanks for the reminder that the work of sanctification isn’t always about us!
OUCH! (Yes, I used all capital letters intentionally! 🙂 )
How I wish I didn’t see myself in this. It’s especially difficult when the person speaking the truth to me is someone I don’t like. I have to remember God uses whoever He wants to speak truth into my life. It’s about the message, not the messenger.
I LOVE your honesty! As leaders, we aren’t “allowed” to dislike a person, but the truth is, it’s just not possible to “like” everyone. And I’m convinced that God uses difficult people to share truth with us so He can pull our pockets of flesh out by the roots! Thanks so much for sharing.
This is hard, but I try so hard to listen. I try to see if it is truth that they are speaking or if they are just being a busy body too. It is hard to discern that sometimes. It is hugely humbling, and you have to remove your pride to listen. It is so important to, because how will you grow if you don’t?
So true, Kristin! Discerning the difference between whether a person is trying to tear us down out of anger, jealously, or whatever, or build us up takes prayer, honest self examination, and lots and lots of humility. It is the work of the Spirit to reveal truth, our job is simply to be faithful to share it when He prompts us to. Thanks for being brave and honest!