“It’s Not My Job…”

Dr. Ab Abercrombieshutterstock_137708114

In the Book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote about the importance of sanctification and maturity in the Christian life:

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…(Eph 4:14-15).

“As a result” of preaching, teaching, evangelism, and biblical care, the saints are to be unified and equipped with knowledge, maturity, and unity, moving collectively toward the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-13). Therefore the unified, mature, and prepared Body of Christ should be growing in stability, with correct doctrine, not subject to false teaching and deception, and capable of expressing “truth in love” to one another, so that all grow up into the likeness of Christ.

Truth in love is the foundational work of biblical counseling. In its truest application, biblical counseling should occur constantly within the normal day-to-day discourse between believers, as we focus our intent and movement toward the goals of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, this piece of biblical care is typically left to the pastoral staff or trained counselors, and often occurs only when spiritual issues have grown into urgent crises.

But in reality, biblical care is the responsibility of all believers. Truth in love should happen naturally as followers of Christ seek to orient themselves toward individual growth and the edification of the Body. Speaking to one another with compassion and empathy, while encouraging and correcting in truth, is our fundamental practice. Paul wrote:

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:1-2).

Thus truth in love is a process of restoration, applied to sin, by “you who are spiritual.” You who are born-again, mature, and walking in the Spirit, are called to this “law of Christ.” This is a broader definition than one who is seminary trained or clinically licensed. It is a call given to every developing Christian and should dwell in the fabric of every healthy church.

Ideally, this type of biblical intervention would be evident in all aspects ministry. There should be agreement between the message preached from the pulpit and the messages taught in Bible study, Sunday school, worship, home groups, discipleship, and personal relationships between believers. Disciples of Christ must always be attentive to the needs of our brethren, responding with the full integrity of God’s Word with kindness.

Instead, the church tends to ignore this important piece of discipleship, unwittingly encouraging the advancement toward catastrophe. When the church fails to train, correct, and minister when lives are stable, it will surely confront the fruit of its negligence at a later point. And when that moment of emergency comes, most are shocked to learn their friends are divorcing, someone in youth is pregnant, or depression has overtaken a partner in ministry.

Yet when the unexpected crisis comes, and involvement is needed, most within the Body exclaim, “Its not my job!” The layperson defers to the pastor and the pastor refers to a counselor, and no one assumes responsibility for this byproduct of failed ministry. If only the church had invested in growing mature Christians who were not subject to “every wind of doctrine,” trickery, craftiness, and deception (Eph 4:13).

The process is much like a car owner who fails to change the oil, service the tires, and tune the engine. Over time the neglect of maintenance results in a failure of systems that was avoidable. Then the one responsible (the car owner) turns the car over to a professional (mechanic) or trades the car because it is unreliable and too much trouble.

Many Christians fall because they are not maintained in the Word and held by the Body. They do not receive regular and affectionate service nor are problems handled at the first evidence of distress. Then when the break down inevitably comes, the believer is left to the hands of outsiders (professionals). Regrettably, some within the Body are even relieved when the ailing church member leaves, soon to be replaced by a newer model.

But each time a member of the church is transferred to earthly sources of repair; each time a church member leaves in despair; the Body is weakened and its integrity before God is diminished. Have we forgotten the following admonition:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another (Eph 4:25).

Our neighbor’s health ultimately impacts the health of the church. Failing to tend to his/her needs of one makes the entire Body vulnerable. Since we are “members of one another” spiritual illness in one family member will infect the entire family. Because of this we cannot be cavalier and neglect the rudimentary elements of care and teaching that are endemic to the Church.

I submit that all of this is indeed our “job.” Both the maintenance of the ordinary and service to the extreme, is our heavenly call as Christians. We must begin to look to this critical aspect of ministry central to the advancement of the Gospel through the building up of the saints. The Church must reclaim this important spiritual turf and embrace the responsibility we bear to one another. As Paul wrote:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Tim 4:1-2).

 

Comments

  1. Shirley Filar says:

    I’ve heard in order to be a good teacher one must believe he still has something to learn.

    For me, speaking truth in love is what I do ONLY when Christ holds my heart in a place where I am able to hear His Truth spoken to me by others, believers or not.

    Yes, I prefer to hear God’s truth spoken to me in love. Yet, what if I had a choice of hearing God’s voice spoken in less perfect ways… or not hearing His voice at all? Would I still choose to hear what He wants me to hear, even if it comes from a less that politically correct brother or sister? Or would I refuse to listen, just because they didn’t have a good delivery?

    When reading Eph 4: 14-15; Gal 6: 1-2; and 2Tim 4:1-2, I know God is teaching me to speak truth to my friends and family, and even strangers. Yet I find myself more and more aware that God is also encouraging me to accept “the truth” spoken to me by others as His blessing of grace!

    I’m reminded of God’s encouragement through the ages:
    My child, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12
    God will instruct you and teach you, in the way you should go. He will guide you with His eye upon you! Psalms 32:8
    Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and he shall bring it to pass, He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday sun. Psalm 37:5-6
    Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit John 15:2

    These Words cause a deep hunger in me to “grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, ” and my heart longs to “let this mind be in me which was also in Christ Jesus… who took the form of a bondservant.” Is this a bondservant to actually hear others longing for my growth, as well as a bondservant to risk other’s displeasure or discomfort to speak the truth in love?

    Perhaps I will best learn “to speak” the truth in love by the same blessing of grace that is teaching me “to hear” the truth about my own sin, accept what He is saying to me through others, and be grateful they love me enough to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, and instruct me with… or without great patience.

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