Monday, April 29, 2013

Instructing with Gentleness, Pt. 5

Is your motivation to share the message born out of love for your brother or sister?

This is one of the most difficult parts to effectively lock in to when seeking to instruct with gentleness. As I mentioned in another post, one thing we can glean from Matthew 7 is that it is hard to see our own faults, and selfish motivations are no exception. Also, we so freely use the word "love" in our culture today that when Paul tells us to speak the truth in love in Ephesians 4:15, I think that sometimes we have a hard time even knowing what that means.

The Bible has a lot to say about what it means to love one another, much more than I could cover in a blog post. I do want you to think about a couple of familiar passages, though.

4 Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
5 does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13

That is a great checklist to compare your motivation against. If any part of your motivation doesn't line up with Paul's description of love here, then there's a good chance that you should keep quiet.

Philippians 2:1-4 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. 3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

What is our one goal (v. 2)? It is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Is your motivation driven by that goal for the person you seek to instruct with gentleness? Or do you wish to speak out a sense of rivalry or conceit? The heart of rivalry is all about elevating one person, team or group at the expense of another. If anything, you should be seeking to elevate your brother or sister at your own expense. That's what it means to consider them more important than yourselves (cf John 15:13).

One final thought. It's been said that actions speak louder than words, and James said something similar in James 2:18 when he stated that true faith can only be demonstrated by what you do, not what you say. Packaging up a harsh or false word with "I'm saying this in love" doesn't make it loving any more than ending a prayer with "In Jesus's name" transforms the content of that prayer into something that is seeking the will of God. If you are truly motivated by love for your brother or sister, it should be evident in all the interactions you have had with that person up to that point.