Counsel: Check your heart (2)
On the last “Counsel” article, I addressed how it is easy to “assume” a person might wrongly assess a situation or person’s actions. Hence, that person might fall into the trap of wrongly judging and wrongly correcting. We looked at Jeremiah 17:9-10, which addressed the deceitfulness of our wicked hearts and Matthew 7:1-5, which warns us to deal with our own sin before we judge another and finally Galatians 6:1, which gives the spiritual, mechanical issues to be considered as you approach someone. I concluded with the question, “Why is carefrontation (confronting in a godly way) a fearful step?” Let me address that.
First, we are in a spiritual battle. Paul describes how we are really not fighting against the person we might be having trouble with, but we are fighting with spiritual forces,
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:10-13)
Why does Paul tell the saints in Ephesus to “be strong”? Paul says, “be strong” because the spiritual battle is strong and raging. The conflicts are going on. It’s not a matter of if they will happen, but when they will happen. Paul makes that clear in Ephesians 6:12 that our struggle is not against “flesh and blood, but against principalities…” That is, the real battles are not against human flesh and blood, even though there are conflicts with flesh and blood (people). The real battles are in the spiritual realm. Satan’s demonic forces are doing everything they can to divide Christians, harm relationships and distort the world’s perspective of God’s goodness and God’s word. Because we are in a spiritual battle, it is a fearful thing to carefront others. How do you know if you are a part of assisting the conflict or bringing godly resolve to the conflict?
Secondly, we focus on our own hurts more than the other’s. We know we may hurt someone else, but we cannot understand the heart of another or the damage we may cause, especially when we don’t even understand our own heart (Jer. 17:9-10). We too easily become self-righteous in our thinking and assume too much. Paul says it well in Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” We think we have others figured out, as well as ourselves, but it’s often just pride.
The other problem is if we have pain from a relationship, it distorts our view of others. We have filters and we don’t know how those filters affect our perspective and judgment in thinking. Paul makes it clear that we tend to think too highly of ourselves.
Thirdly, we become bitter, because we’re trying to do the right thing. Paul writes,
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do… 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. (Col. 3:12-13,18-19)
Why does Paul exhort those attitudes and actions in Colossians 3:12-13? He exhorts because they are often missing in relationships, even in the body of Christ. He exhorts because those are the attitudes and actions needed to maintain unity and harmony in the body of Christ, so the world will see love for one another. He exhorts because we who want to be tender, kind, humble and patient often aren’t, so we must forgive and depend on the power of the Holy Spirit rather than our own power.
Then Paul gets down to the attitudes and actions of wives and husbands. I find it very interesting that Paul summarizes into one verse what he says in three verses in Ephesians 5:22-24, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as if fitting in the Lord.” He doesn’t say what is “fitting,” but he does all through the epistle. Every encouragement and exhortation directed toward relationships in the body are to be manifested in marriage. Marriage is often the hardest place to see it fulfilled, so he assumes the wives will 1) be submissive and 2) do what is fitting in the Lord, that is, “just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Eph. 5:24) “Fitting”means what is “set aside” or what is holy to the Lord. In other words, everything, except what would be sin. Wives, die to your own desires and be holy set aside in submission to your husband. That is why wives need the Holy Spirit. That is why it is a fearful step to carefront another.
Then Paul addresses the husbands and mentions “do not be bitter toward them.”Most people would say that men aren’t as bitter as women. After all, women have to submit to the authority of or the final decisions of their husbands. There are plenty of reasons for a wife to be bitter. Yet Paul tells the husband not to be bitter. Why? Paul exhorts the husband to not be bitter, because when he is trying to love his wife, when he is dying to himself and trying to lead her spiritually, when he is working to provide, seeking to lead in devotions and on the look out to protect his wife and she doesn’t respond, then the husband is prone to become bitter. Husbands, die to yourself and do not be bitter. Instead, be patient. Husbands put off your bitterness and consider how often you rejected the Lord’s provision, spiritual leading in your life and protection of your soul. Confess your sins of bitterness and depend on the mercy and power of the Holy Spirit. Put on kindness, tender mercies and forgiveness and you’ll not be bitter. That is why it is a fearful step to carefront another.
Fourthly, we don’t approach love God’s way. Most people have heard the “love” chapter (1 Corinthians 13) so many times at weddings and other occasions that they become numb to what it’s really saying. Paul writes,
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
What does it mean to you that “love suffers long”? First ask yourself, what is the Great Commandment? “
37 Jesus said to him, “`You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the first and great commandment. 39 “And the second is like it:`You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matt. 22:37-39)
Who is your closest neighbor? Your spouse! So God commands us to love our spouse and if I don’t, what is that called? If I know what I’m supposed to do and I don’t do it, what is that called? James writes, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (Jam. 4:17) So, if I don’t love my spouse (or my neighbor) it’s sin. If I don’t do what love does, it is sin for me. In other words, if as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, I am not patient, I have sinned. If I am not kind in my actions, it is sin. If I am envious of others, it is sin. If I parade myself or act arrogant, it is sin. If I am rude to my neighbor (or my spouse) it is sin.
Too often we think “everyone does those things” and we find them acceptable. God does not! They reveal that we are not dependent on the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit does not do those things. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we cannot do those things. They are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If we sin, then we must follow God’s guideline, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) When we confess our sins and humbly depend on the Holy Spirit, then God the Holy Spirit will bear his fruit through us – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness… That is why it is a fearful step to carefront another; we might not do it from God’s love.
Friends, check your heart. Scripture says 1) our hearts are deceitful; 2) we are easily prone to judging others; and 3) we often correct in an ungodly way. When we correct another, or point out their wrongs in an ungodly way, we often don’t realize how fearful a step we are taking. Consequently, we need 1) to recognize we are in a spiritual battle; 2) to focus on the hurt of others more than our own and 3) to not become bitter when we are doing the right thing and 4) to approach love God’s way. If you do these things, you’ll be blessed. (John 13:17) If you do these things, you’ll have good relationships. Go in His peace.